Highway 1 construction controversy
The ground may be broken on construction work to fix a deadly stretch of highway just east of Kamloops, but several First Nation bands in the area aren’t ready to celebrate.
Three Shuswap Nation bands with traditional territory along Highway 1 between Kamloops and Chase are calling on the provincial government to reach an agreement with the bands before the project proceeds.
The three bands include the Spaltsin from Enderby, along with the Neskonlith and Adams Lake Indian bands.
Yesterday (Oct. 12), crews officially started work on the first phase of a major improvement project to upgrade Highway 1 between Monte Creek and Pritchard.
The eventual goal is to widen the highway to four lanes all the way from Kamloops to Chase.
However, Splatsin First Nation Chief Wayne Christian said his band is frustrated the government is proceeding without reaching an agreement on outstanding territorial issues.
In 2009, ancestral remains were discovered along the highway corridor planned for construction.
The bands are looking for a government-to-government agreement that includes shared decision-making, management, revenue and the protection of cultural heritage in any development in the area.
“This area is the cradle of the Secwepemc civilization,” Christian said.
Christian called the groundbreaking “premature” and suggested continuing construction without a deal in place will lead to confrontation and litigation.
Neskonlith Indian Band Chief Judy Wilson said all sides are working toward an agreement, but noted the process has been slow.
“I think that’s the frustration we’re talking about,” she said, adding the archeological work is still in the process of being completed.
Kamloops-South Thompson Liberal MLA Kevin Krueger said he understands the mixed feelings surrounding the project.
He called the criticism “gentle words,” adding the chiefs have been very accommodating in working through the issues with the provincial government.
Though he acknowledged the general concerns expressed by the chiefs, Krueger said there are also concerns about safety along the highway.
“Our first consideration in any highway situation is safety,” he said, pointing out the stretch of road near Hoffman’s Bluff is the deadliest stretch in B.C.
The first phase will expand the Trans-Canada Highway to four lanes from two lanes between the Monte Creek interchange to east of Bostock Road, a distance of three kilometres.
The $7.2-million project, which is being jointly funded by federal government, is expected to be completed by fall 2012.