Water and Sewer Company Ltd.
A self-sufficient water supply and sewage treatment plant provide services to all KDC developments.
The multi-million dollar treatment system supplies full municipal service to the land and also benefits the entire valley. KDC extended water and sewer services outside reserve boundaries to solve a 30-year-old environmental issue on Lake Windermere, a progressive investment solving a regional problem.
Water enough for all, says Shuswap Nation, by Cheryl Petten - Windspeaker Staff Writer
Shuswap First Nation, BC
The future is looking pretty bright for the members of the Shuswap First Nation. Situated in B.C’s Columbia Valley a stones throw from some of the area’s most popular tourist attractions, the First Nation is perfectly situated to lay claim to some of those tourist dollars. But thanks to some long term planning and the band’s innovative way of doing business, that is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to economic development opportunities that exist for the community. What makes Shuswap’s approach different is the relationships the Band has fostered with the surrounding communities, explained Dean Martin, chief executive officer for the Kinbasket Development Corporation, the First Nation’s development arm. “A lot of bands don’t have relationships with the surrounding municipalities. There’s always a line in the sand. This is reserve, this is non-reserve. Ours is a seamless community. That’s the way we like to see it. We live in a regional concept. Because of the fiscal responsibilities that are taken on by Indian Affairs and by the municipalities, collectively working together we can get a bigger bang for our dollar,” Martin said. “There’s no sense reinventing the wheel on reserve and off reserve when we can work together to enhance the region as a whole, and we all benefit from it,” Dean Martin said. The band operates the regional airport, while the Regional District of East Kootenay provides fire protection for the reserve, Martin explained. The band also pays the region so members can take advantage of services such as regional hospital, the regional landfill, recreation facilities and libraries. But the most unique aspect of this partnership involves provision of water and sewer services. They are provided to the region by Shuswap’s Kinbasket Water and Sewer. The groundwork for establishing Kinbasket Water and Sewer was initially laid in the early 1990’s, when the band began working with Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) to create a physical development plan for the community that would support its economic strategy. The band recognized that it was in a position to take advantage of the area’s potential for growth, and they seized the opportunity, but it took quite a bit of convincing to get INAC on board with the plan, Martin explained. Past developments around nearby Lake Windermere had left the area’s septic fields saturated, he said, which meant future development in the area would be limited by a lack of septic services. The nearby Shuswap reserve, on the other hand, boasted land that was well suited geologically for a sewer treatment facility and a good, deep aquifer to supply water. What Shuswap proposed was creating a water and sewer system on reserve with enough capacity to meet both current and future requirements of the First Nation and the needs of potential off-reserve customers. “Historically, Indian Affairs would only fund community-related servicing,” explained Kinbasket Development Corporation chief financial officer Matthew Ney. “We worked really hard with them to convince them to support a broader physical development plan.” “The Columbia Valley here is really a second home site for all of the Calgary oil people that seem to enjoy coming out there and enjoying Radium Hot Springs, Fairmont Hot Springs, Panorama Ski Resort… and the lake,” Martin said. “So it’s a real resort area. So what we’re doing from the Shuswap band and its Kinbasket Development Corporation is taking advantage of those opportunities that other Radiums and Fairmonts and Panoramas have already taken advantage of.” The regional district was very supportive of the band’s water and sewer venture, Ney said, because it helped them find a solution to a problem that has plagued them for more than three decades. It also allows them to do long-term planning for growth in the area, knowing that Kinbasket Water and Sewer will be able to service new development. Currently the population in the region surrounding the reserve sits at about 2,500, Ney said. The water and sewer infrastructure on the reserve has the capacity to service an off reserve population of about 18,000. Both the federal government and the provincial government provided funding for Shuswap’s upsized water and sewer infrastructure. And both levels of government will see returns on their investment in the form of an increased tax base, Martin said. “they’re starting to recognize what’s going on and what type of tax base that we really put out there for them,” he said “ When we start developing through water and sewer and they get the uptake in densities because they’re not on septic tanks but its good sewage disposal on lines, 80 units, 240 unit developments. That’s a huge uptake in the tax base for t6he federal and provincial governments.” It’s also translating into more economic development opportunities for the First Nation. Having all the necessary services available—some provided by the band, some coming through the relationship with the region—has made the reserve more attractive to investors.