Ucluelet First Nation celebrates community infrustructure projects with a ribbon cutting of their new sewer system, and another ribbon cutting at a new housing development on Jan. 29.
Proud Ucluelet First Nation (UFN) leaders huddled together on the cold, rainy waterfront at Hittatsoo to take part in a ribbon-cutting ceremony marking the official opening of their brand-new sewer system.
“It’s not sewer we’re celebrating,” joked spokesperson Tyson Touchie. “We’re celebrating healthier communities and a healthy harbor.”
Up until 2009, UFN relied on a septic tank to collect solid wastes and pumped raw liquid effluent into Ucluelet Harbor. Touchie said it’s been more than 30 years since the community has been able to harvest clams and crab on their shores.
Besides the increased capacity, the new $2.6 million system keeps wastes from entering Ucluelet Harbor, making for a cleaner environment. UFN now pumps its sewage through a submarine pipe that stretches across the harbor to holding ponds on High Focus Island, District of Ucluelet property, where it is treated.
Touchie said UFN pays the District of Ucluelet for tapping into their municipal water system and for sewage treatment. He hopes it won’t be too long before the community can harvest edible clams and crab once again on their shores.
The new sewer system posed unusual challenges for UFN. Archeologists were brought in to sift through the ancient middens that would have to be dug up to install the new pipes. Thirteen sets of historic remains were unearthed; they were re-interred near the present day cemetery in accordance with ancient Uclulth tradition.
During the construction of the sewer system, UFN council took the opportunity to install a paved waterfront walkway and plant sedge grass to stabilize the slopes.
The Jan. 29 community celebration not only marked the opening of the new sewer system but also officially opened the new subdivision featuring dozens of CMHC award-winning family homes.
UFN Chief Councillor Vi Mundy said the celebration showcases UFN’s efforts to improve the health and living standards of their community members. In the past two years UFN has added 27 social housing units, fulfilling Phase I of their new subdivision development.
Some of the new homes could not be used until UFN switched over to their upgraded sewer system. The old system just did not have the capacity to take on the demands the new homes would place on it.
At the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the opening of the new subdivision, Tyson Touchie said the entire area was rugged scrub forest only six years ago. The site was cleared and engineered so that the new homes would be situated on level, well-drained land.
The entire subdivision is landscaped with low-maintenance shrubbery.
Cedar, rocks, sand and gravel taken from the site were used as much as possible in the new construction, helping to offset the cost of the $6-million project, which was funded by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.
According to Touchie, past councils decided to take a new approach to the housing development.
“We were in a vicious cycle of repairing substandard housing. We’d finish a bunch and then there would be more to do. It just never ended,” he said.
“Our people wanted homes that were healthy to live in and would last long,” he explained. Many homes had cracked foundations from settling of the land. Wind-driven rain would seep into homes causing water damage and then there was the black mold.
They approached an architectural firm and challenged them to come up with a housing design that would meet their needs. DNR Management came up with a design that they say will resist mold and withstand the heavy, wind-driven rain that is so common on the west coast.
Doug Muir, Construction Manager for the project, said the new homes are constructed with cement and Styrofoam walls and the floors have hot water tubes embedded in them as a radiant heat source. The interior walls are finished with acrylic stucco, which resists black mold and is far more reliant than drywall.
“The life expectancy for this type of house in 100 years,” he said.
The contractor trained three young men from the community to build the homes with funds from the Nuu-chah-nulth Education and Training Program. These young men now have the skills to work on future construction and are qualified to maintain the new homes.
Vi Mundy said she is very excited about the project.
“It’s been so long since we’ve had new housing and I’m very happy to see families moving back home; second, third and even fourth generations are finally getting to come home.”
She thanks all the people and organizations that made the dream a reality.
“This would not be possible had we not received help from many individuals and organizations,” she said.
UFN thanked Felice Mazzoni, Ucluelet District Planner, who stood in for Mayor Diane St. Jacques and Ucluelet Council. As neighbors the communities proved that they could work together to help one another find solutions to help the people.
UFN members Joey Miller, Jeremy Valentine, Maureen Touchie, Henry George and Delores Clayton were acknowledged for their contributions to the new construction. Late Evan Touchie was remembered as one of the construction workers on the new housing units.
INAC Capital Projects Specialist Math’ieya Alatini oversaw the installation of the sewer system in the new subdivision.
“I just want to congratulate the Ucluelet First Nation on moving forward with infrastructure that will help build a strong community and a healthy environment. It is inspiring that the First Nation has built stronger relationships with their neighbors through these projects,” she said.
“I look forward to many more of these types of celebrations in the future as the Ucluelet First Nation continues to build momentum onwards and upwards,” said Alatini.
By Denise Titian