Saturday, March 17, 2012

Mayor Ruttan Addresses Water Needs



March 17, 2012

City, Harmac Water Discussions in Long-Term Interest of All, Including SFN

City, Harmac Water Discussions in Long-Term Interest of All, Including SFN Not many issues are more important to the future of Nanaimo and our residents than having a safe, secure, and plentiful water supply. Unfortunately, some confusion has arisen over the discussions between the City and Chief White and Snuneymuxw First Nation (SFN) Council as we look down the road towards future water supply options.

As we examine detailed and objective assessments for future water needs, it is clear that even after conservation measures are accounted for our current supply will not be adequate by 2020. Given that this is the case, two options readily present themselves. One is to build a dam in the Nanaimo River watershed. This is an 8-to 10-year project and would cost in the range of $60 to 75 million or possibly more. The other option is to gain access to Nanaimo Forest Products’ (Harmac) water assets.

At the same time we recognize that water issues are key to SFN, too. Under the City’s 2005 Protocol Agreement with the SFN, we agreed to provide water to its Reserve #2, and the 2007 Community to Community Water Agreement contemplates supplying water to Reserves #3 and #4. We are investing $500,000 in a project to take water to SFN’s Reserve #2 and expect to have this project finished by the end of this year. As for Reserves #3 and #4, we expect to provide for these under the future water supply project we are currently investigating.

The City has been meeting and speaking with Chief White and his Council or their representatives on this very issue for three years. We have discussed both options with them and shared our data and engineering studies. Everything has been above board. We have lived up to our 2005 Protocol Agreement and the 2007 Community to Community Water Agreement with the SFN in every way. Our desire was for the City and SFN to jointly enter discussions with Harmac.

For three years we have waited for Chief White and his Council and their representatives to agree to offer their tangible expectations to the City. These were not forthcoming, and now the City has decided to start technical and commercial discussions with Harmac to gather information and to explore what is workable. This is what Chief White and his Council are now objecting to.

We respect that SFN want to be and remain involved. If, as a result of this process we decide to enter into an agreement with Harmac regarding their water system, we intend to confer with the SFN in a spirit of mutual cooperation and respect for each government’s jurisdiction and interests. We also expect that the Province will consult with the SFN regarding any potential adverse effects on SFN’s rights and will address any legal responsibilities it may have under that process. The City will continue to keep SFN aware of major developments and will consider SFN’s participation in a joint initiative on appropriate terms.

The SFN’s voice will be heard. We will be reasonable and practical, and we ask the same of Chief White, his Council and their representatives.

John Ruttan
Mayor, City of Nanaimo


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