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NEWS: Halalt First Nation concerned about Chemainus Wells Project

A campaign blog from September 2009 highlighted the Globe and Mail reporting that, “A plan by a Vancouver Island community to dig wells to provide safe drinking water for about 4,000 people has run into a legal roadblock because of the concerns of a local native band. The proposed wells would be dug on the edge of the (Halalt First Nation) reserve, and each would be capable of pumping about seven million litres of water a day from the Chemainus aquifer, which feeds the (Chemainus) river (which runs through the reserve).”

“The Halalt First Nation filed a petition with the Supreme Court of British Columbia (on September 3, 2009) to stop the District of North Cowichan from digging two new wells and installing a one-million-gallon reservoir. …The petition asks the court to order a judicial review of the $3.6-million water project… (which) has been approved under both the federal and provincial environmental-review processes.”

“Halalt Chief James Thomas said in a written statement, ‘We want a comprehensive management plan for the watershed before this project goes ahead. And, if it goes ahead, we want to be full participants in a monitoring program. …We want a hand on the tap should it ever be seen that the wells are damaging this river, its fish or our drinking supply.’”

“Mayor Tom Walker of the Municipality of North Cowichan said (his community) …has been plagued for years by dirty drinking water drawn from surface sources. …Mr. Walker said without the wells it’s only a matter of time before the Vancouver Island Health Authority issues more boil-water advisories. The advisories are issued when heavy rains raise the bacteria count in the water-supply basin.”

B Channel news reported this past March that, “On February 25, 2010, the Halalt First Nation erected a road block in front of it’s band offices to stop traffic between Crofton and Chemainus. The purpose of this blockade is to bring attention to what the Halalt feel has been a lack of consultation from the municipality of North Cowichan over municipal wells being drilled into the Chemainus aquifer.” The blockade came down in mid-March.

“National Chief Shaw A-in-chut Atleo, of the Assembly of First Nations, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs and Grand Chief Doug Kelly, of the BC First Nations Summit had all issued statements supporting the Halalt and their demands for consultation on the issues of a comprehensive watershed management plan.”

“Work began late last year on the $5.7 million Chemainus Wells Project, which involves two wells, a pump station, four kilometres of new pipe, and a 4.5 million-litre concrete reservoir. The Halalt assert that this project infringes on their rights to the Chemainus aquifer, which has been their source of water, and a vital part of their culture. A British Columbia Supreme Court Judicial Review has been called to examine the Halalt’s claims.”

The Ladysmith Chronicle reported in late-September that the wells project was completed earlier this year, but “North Cowichan is only allowed to operate the groundwater system between Oct. 15 and June 15… The Halalt First Nation, meanwhile, is still opposing the well project in B.C Supreme Court. Court hearings continue during 10 days in mid-November. Halalt lawyer Bill Andrews, meanwhile, said he is aware North Cowichan hopes to operate the groundwater system year-round.”

The September 2009 campaign blog is at The B Channel report from this past March is at