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It has been a long time coming, but a water line connecting the Town of High Level with the Dene Tha’ First Nation community of Bushe River is nearing completion.
On Thursday, Sept. 3, Chief James Ahnassay and Mayor Crystal McAteer, along with members of their respective Administrations, came together at the water transfer station at the border of both communities to commemorate the historic achievement.
“Partnerships between neighbours are very important, said Mayor Crystal McAteer. “Even though we have different forms of government, we share a lot of the same concerns and interests; one of which is ensuring everyone has running water. This is the first step in the process and I couldn’t be any more proud.”
“I recall that we have been in discussions for many years to bring in potable water to Bushe even kicking around the idea of clearing the Bushe River of beaver dams and debris on the north side of highway 58,” said Dene Tha’ Chief James Ahnassay. “That is, to build a weir on the north side of the highway to capture water to draw from, to fill a reservoir, and treat it.
“Of course, we had to ensure there was long term sustainable raw water supply and to do that engineering studies had to be done. This led to discussions with the town and eventually most viable solution was to go along with a regional water supply system. For a long time, we had been getting treated water from the Town, which had to be trucked – and that meant wastewater had to be trucked back to the town’s wastewater lagoon system for disposal.
“Both systems were inefficient and expensive. Piped water supply is efficient and once we have the water supply hooked up to houses and businesses in the core areas of Bushe it will eliminate the use of cisterns, which are also prone to contamination and costly to clean.
“Currently, DTFN and the Town of High Level are collaborating on a feasibility study for wastewater treatment system. The partnership’s mission is to have better delivery of services, and cost efficiency through economy of scales of working together to meet the needs of the neighbours.
“I am happy we are finally fulfilling our mission to bring in clean drinking water to Bushe. For now, we will continue using the trucking system, but we will see that significantly reduced once the water and wastewater connection get completed to the residences and businesses in the core areas.”
A project to connect the two communities with a water line has been a dream for decades. Back in June 2017, the first meaningful progress began on the project when The Town of High Level, Dene Tha’ First Nation, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, Alberta Indigenous Relations, and ISL Engineering met to discuss new funding possibilities. The focus revolved around Provincial funding under the Access to Regional Drinking Water Systems to assist First Nations connect to water supplies at nearby communities.
Following those meetings, the Town of High Level and the Dene Tha’ First Nation worked together to apply for the grants necessary for a project of this importance, resulting in the funding and eventual completion of a water tie-in feasibility study in June 2018.
A formal review of the study involving all stakeholders was completed shortly thereafter, and resulted in a joint application for a Regional Water application under the Access to Regional Drinking Water Systems program. This application was submitted and in August 2018, resulting in a 100 per cent funding grant announcement of $2.1 million awarded to complete the line.
The current project brings Town water to the boundary of the Bushe River community. When fully completed, the water line will provide water to a large number of Bushe River residents.
For More Information
Dene Tha’ Contact: Chief James Ahnassay, (780) 502-2000
Town of High Level Contact: Mayor Crystal McAteer, (780) 841-5729