A vast swath — about 900 acres (364 hectares) — of open and lightly used Tk’emlups te Secwépemc reserve land from the Mount Paul Industrial Park to Rayleigh is now developable, following expansion of the band’s water network.
On Thursday (Oct. 29), representatives from Tk’emlups, the City of Kamloops, the Thompson-Nicola Regional District and the federal government were on hand to mark completion of the North Reservoir.
“We know that we have a lot of land that is going to be now available and is going to be open for business,” Tk’emlups Chief Rosanne Casimir said, noting she sees development in the area — which is flat and near to highways and rail — as key to economic recovery amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“With us, it’s going to be about getting the word out there. The biggest component and biggest hurdle has always been infrastructure and this here is definitely one of the factors that are going to be filling that void.”
The reservoir project has been priority for the band for many years and came to completion this past summer, following two years of construction. It consists of two large tanks on the hillside above Chief Louis Way and has capacity to store six-million litres of potable water to land below. The band pumps water from the South Thompson River and treats it via a class four water-treatment plant. Until now, it had pumped and stored potable water primarily at the Mount Paul reservoir.
“That’s been the primary storage for all the water needs, but demand and land development has exceeded that,” Tk’emlups planning and engineering manager John ter Borg said. “So, to keep up with that demand, this is built on the next hillside over and it’s just pumped from that water-treatment plant into these reservoirs, where the gravity feeds all of the water network down below.”
Funding was a challenge. The project cost about $4.8 million and included $1.2 million from Indigenous Services Canada. The remainder was funded via development cost charges. Tk’emlups called the project historic, noting it is the first First Nations community in the country to fund a major capital infrastructure project using development cost charges, which are fees levied on developers at the time of permitting to fund future projects. Common amongst municipalities, including the City of Kamloops, those gathered at the reservoir on Thursday heard it is less common amongst First Nations.
Tk’emlups implemented DCCs in 2013 and the reserve funds paid for the majority of the reservoir. Casimir sees the use of DCCs for band projects as an important step toward self-reliance.
“This is a historic moment for our community,” she said.
Meanwhile, as many municipal infrastructure projects are funded in partnership with the provincial and federal governments, First Nations have not qualified in the same ways for capital dollars. During a time of reconciliation, the band said it is still a work in progress and advocacy on that front continues.
Kamloops-Thompson Cariboo (Conservative) MP Cathy McLeod said colonial injustice poses barriers to First Nations communities, adding: “We still have a lot of work to do.”
Kamloops Mayor Ken Christian lauded the project, noting the importance of having medium- to light-industrial land in the area, which he said will benefit the region. He said it also provides additional fire protection.
Ter Borg said the band has received interest in the area from developers in light of the North Reservoir project. Some development has already occurred. In the future, the band is also eying roads, biking and sewer infrastructure. Built out, Ter Borg estimated the area could provide between $10 million to $15 million annually to the band. In addition, it would create revenues that filter back into the community and create jobs.