shishalh First Nation pitches new reservoir amid Sunshine Coast drought

Click to play video: '20,000 Sunshine Coast residents under water restrictions'
20,000 Sunshine Coast residents under water restrictions
WATCH: For a third straight year, strict Stage 4 water restrictions are in effect for 20,000 residents of the Sunshine Coast. Aaron McArthur reports – Sep 8, 2023

The shishalh First Nation says it has the backing of other Sunshine Coat communities for a proposed reservoir to help the region tackle its persistent drought problems.

Some parts of the region are currently under Stage 4 water restrictions, and last year the regional district was forced to declare a state of local emergency that lasted into December amid “unprecedented” draw down on the Chapman reservoir system, which supplies 90 per cent of the Sechelt area.

Last year’s water restrictions weren’t lifted until February 2023.

Chapman Lake reservoir in the Sunshine Coast region seen during drought conditions in October, 2022. Sunshine Coast Regional District

The First Nation held a water summit in May with the regional district, District of Sechelt and Town of Gibsons, which it said “cemented the understanding that the crisis must be addressed, and all community leaders are seeking a solution quickly.”

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The proposed new reservoir would be established at an existing mine site on the First Nation’s land, which it said would limit any new environmental impacts.

Click to play video: 'Mayor of Gibsons demands action on water supply'
Mayor of Gibsons demands action on water supply

The reservoir would be used to capture water during the rainy months and only be tapped during the dry summer and fall seasons.

The nation said work could begin on the project immediately, if funded, with some water available by next summer.

“What was once a water challenge is now a water crisis, causing anxiety and fear in our members and residents of the Sunshine Coast,” Ihe hiwus (Chief) Leonra Joe said in a media release.

“This is more of a human issue than a business initiative, and we must address it now; the new reservoir is an essential part of the solution.”

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Sechelt Mayor John Henderson called the proposal “practical and attainable,” and urged the province to back the “vitally important” expansion of the region’s water supply infrastructure.

Click to play video: 'Non-essential water use ban goes into effect on the Sunshine Coast'
Non-essential water use ban goes into effect on the Sunshine Coast

Gibsons Mayor Silas White called the proposal a “tremendous opportunity,” adding the region needed “tangible and immediate solutions” to its water woes.

The regional district is also backing the proposal.

The shishalh First Nation said it and local community leaders were meeting with the province and federal government about the plan, and “waiting for confirmation of funding support so that the reservoir can be built immediately.”

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