The chief of the K’ómok’s First Nation has joined a growing chorus opposing a Comox Valley family’s plan to extract groundwater in Merville for a proposed water bottling business.
“It is an insult to our Nation and people,” said Chief Nicole Rempel in a statement. “The KFN has watched as the resources in our territory have been stripped away and shipped away for far too long. In a time where both the prime minister and B.C. premier have given mandates to their staff to uphold and honour the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, it is quite angering to have to continue the struggle for the rights of our people.”
Christopher MacKenzie and his wife Regula Heynck of Merville intend to extract and bottle up to 10,000 litres of water per day from their family well and sell it via home delivery throughout the Comox Valley.
The couple received a conditional water licence from the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development for their business idea in November 2017.
MacKenzie, who said the alkalinity of his well water (pH 8.1) provides health benefits, is now applying for a rezoning application through the Comox Valley Regional District in order to kickstart the business.
But the proposal has not been well received by the community. More than 150 people attended the CVRD’s electoral area services committee meeting on March 5, where MacKenzie’s rezoning application was considered.
Most gallery members appeared opposed to the project, saying the volume of water extraction will drain their local aquifer and lead to droughts. Some hoisted signs voicing their disapproval of the proposed business.
The KFN statement confirmed that MacKenzie and Heynck had presented an application for a groundwater licence to the KFN chief and council on June 26, 2017, but that the application was denied.
“We were very clear with the applicants [in 2017] that at this time, we could not support their application because we are currently in a treaty process and negotiating for allocations of groundwater ourselves,” Rempel said, in the statement.
“Further to that, the indefinite length of term of the license, as well as the amount, is of great concern.”
At the CVRD’s March 5 meeting, directors on the committee voted to refer MacKenzie’s rezoning application to various First Nations groups and external agencies to determine potential impacts the extraction would have on the groundwater supply.
The rezoning application could potentially come back to the CVRD for a public hearing in the future.