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CVRD, K’ómoks First Nation reach historic agreement to improve sewer service

Better sewage service is on tap in the Comox Valley.

This, after a historic agreement between the K’ómoks First Nation and Comox Valley Regional District Sewage Commission. 

Both sides have committed to work together on a regional solution for sewer, while supporting growth and economic plans for the K’ómoks community.

“This agreement between the CVRD and KFN is a shining example of the leadership here in the Comox Valley and unceded territory of the K’ómoks First Nation. By working together in the spirit of reconciliation, we can set the examples for other municipalities and Indigenous communities nationwide to ensure that we all move forward together,” said Chief Nicole Rempel. 

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“In working toward installation of sewage services to the south, we can address many concerns regarding failing septic systems as well as anticipate and prepare for future developments down the road, and most importantly to protect the streams, beaches and Baynes Sound area from further failing septic systems.”

In early 2020 the Sewage Commission decided to accept wastewater from communities south of the City of Courtenay boundary, which includes KFN development lands. 

This means both Comox and Courtenay will partner with KFN, ensuring a regional approach to sewer services that will protect local beaches, waters and B.C.’s largest shellfish industry in Baynes Sound.

The new partnership recognizes that the existing sewer line through Indian Reserve was expropriated without adequate consultation and provides compensation for past and future impacts of sewer infrastructure within the reserve. 

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The Sewage Commission will work with KFN to protect archaeologically sensitive areas during construction in an effort to preserve cultural heritage sites, ancestral burial places and artifacts.

“For the City of Courtenay, building on our good relations with K’ómoks First Nation and practicing reconciliation is one of our strategic priorities, and we are always looking for opportunities that will bring us towards this goal,” said Courtenay Mayor Bob Wells. “This agreement is a major and concrete step forward and we are grateful to all parties for this collaboration.”

“This agreement is another example that reflects the important and long standing partnership we have with our K’ómoks First Nation neighbours,” said Comox Mayor, Russ Arnott. 

“It is crucial to collaborate with our neighbouring communities and areas to address the fragile sewage line at Willemar Bluffs to ensure the long-term well-being of our waters and the safe, efficient delivery of wastewater in the region.”

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While infrastructure does not currently exist to move wastewater from south of Courtenay, this agreement commits the Comox Valley Regional District to champion and seek grant funding, as well as other project partners to extend sewer infrastructure south.

As partners in this agreement, the K’ómoks First Nation will support all permits and approvals required for upcoming conveyance upgrades (pipes and pump stations) as part of the Liquid Waste Management Planning Process that is underway.

The Comox Valley Regional District says it and the KFN will now plan to share this agreement with Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, Josie Osborne, BC Minister of Municipal Affairs and Murray Rankin, BC Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, “as a testament to what is possible when local  governments and First Nations work together to seek solutions to region wide issues.”

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