Lhoos’kuz Dene Nation’s traditional territory is located in the upper Blackwater River watershed west of Quesnel and south of Vanderhoof in central BC. The main residential community is approximately 200 kilometres west of Quesnel on Kluskus Lake. The Village of Kluskus is accessible by forestry roads. Year-round access is difficult and limited during winter and spring thaw.
The community originally sourced their water from a single well adjacent to Kluskus Creek. This shallow well was susceptible to turbidity and bacterial contamination, such as Escherichia coli and total coliforms. The current community Wells 1 and 2 were drilled in 2008 and contained elevated levels of iron and manganese that do not meet the Canadian Drinking Water Quality Guidelines. In addition, the wells were close to the community’s septic field and traditional burial grounds, so many community members did not use the wells for their drinking water. The Nation has supplied bottled water for drinking, food preparation, and cooking to community members since the early 2000s.
Band Manager, Brenda Thomas and Elder, Ella Stillas believe the project is very important to the Village to provide safe and reliable drinking water
In 2015, Associated examined alternate water supply and worked with the community to consider several surface water sources surrounding the village. Upon examination, the long-term sustainable yield of these surface water sources could not meet the domestic water demands of the community. It was decided that we would look for alternate groundwater wells, based on site reconnaissance by hydrogeologists.
Project Manager, Freda Leong, tells us, “We worked with the Nation, Indigenous Services Canada, First Nations Health Authority, and Res’eau CMI to identify wells that were on the other side of the bridge, away from the community septic field and the traditional burial grounds.” The two new water supply wells, Wells 3 and 5, were drilled in 2017.
Associated has served as the technical lead for the improvements to the existing domestic water system, from feasibility investigation through to construction, and will continue to support the community through post-construction services. The major infrastructure upgrades include a new water treatment plant with ultraviolet and chlorine disinfection and a new transmission main from the plant to the existing water storage reservoir. The transmission main and all civil works were completed before the new packaged water treatment plant was delivered to the site.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action states, “Commit to meaningful consultation, building respectful relationships, and obtaining the free, prior, and informed consent of Indigenous peoples.” Our commitment to this call to action was through the adoption of a Community Circle Approach for this project. This approach involves open dialogue and idea sharing with all members of the Community Circle. The aim is to encourage and facilitate full, honest, and respectful engagement with the Lhoosk’uz Dene Nation.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, we held many in-person meetings and workshops with community members, Elders, and the Chief and Council.
“We have had complex conversations, made decisions together, shared laughs, and celebrated successes. Most importantly, we have made life-long friendships.” - Freda Leong
As a result of the pandemic, we held more virtual community meetings, but the pandemic has not stopped us from connecting. We had a physically-distanced, ground-breaking ceremony before construction started. Key members of the Community Circle were gifted blankets and traditional medicine. Freda shares, “This was such an honour for all of us. I carry my medicine bag with me everyday as protection and as a reminder of my connection to the community.”
We wish to recognize and thank Chief Squinas, Veronica, Ella, Rosa, June, Brenda, Neil, Tony, Marcel, Bella, Lucy, and your Circuit Rider, George McDonald. They have been our boots on the ground and our guides for the community. We would not be where we are without them. Thank you for letting us join your Community Circle!