The next steps in a historic dike project were taken Friday (Nov. 24) with the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) bringing two local First Nations under the protection of the Chilliwack diking system.
Leaders of Sqwá First Nation, Shxwhá:y Village, and the City of Chilliwack were on-hand for the signing of the MOU, cementing the commitment of the three parties to collaborate on the dike extension project, with completion expected by 2032.
The infrastructure project will cost more than $50 million to extend the City of Chilliwack’s current dike by six kilometres to protect Sqwá First Nation, Shxwhá:y Village, and other unprotected areas, from the risk of flooding, as well as a fish-friendly floodgate across the Hope Slough, and a drainage pump system.
The agreement will effectively put the land and the people of Sqwá First Nation and Shxwhá:y Village, which have always been in the floodplain, behind flood protection for the first time ever.
“On behalf of Sqwá First Nation, I am so pleased that we have reached this important milestone as we come together with Shxwhá:y Village and the City of Chilliwack to formalize a Memorandum of Understanding,” said Lara Mussell, who was Sqwá chief at the time of the signing last week. “We are affirming our collective ability to safeguard not only our lands and communities but also our culture, traditions and way of life.”
For Shxwhá:y Chief Robert Gladstone the parties have been working closely together “in the spirit of reconciliation” for years to get to this point.
“We are endeavouring to build a bridge to establish a working relationship with our neighbours with the express hope of solving common problems, and to build a brighter tomorrow for those living today and future generations.”
Chilliwack Mayor Ken Popove sees the effort as crucial to relationship-building with local Stó:lō communities.
“We have all seen the effects of climate change in this region and understand the value and importance of upgrading our flood protection infrastructure. The City of Chilliwack is committed to building relationships with local First Nations, and we are pleased to take this next step in partnership with Sqwá First Nation and Shxwhá:y Village to better protect each of our communities.”