Sioux Valley Dakota Nation councillors Tim Whitecloud, Jonathan Bell and Rusty Taylor along with Stephanie Dornn (second from right) with Excel-7 Ltd. and Nathan Wittmeier, project manager with Prairie Water Consultants (right), applaud after Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone broke ground on a new water treatment plant for the community during a ceremony on Wednesday.(Tim Smith/The Brandon Sun)

A blessing and groundbreaking ceremony for Sioux Valley Dakota Nation’s new water treatment plant, which will ensure clean drinking water for its growing population, was held on the First Nation Wednesday.

In May, then-federal Crown-Indigenous Relations minister Marc Miller visited Sioux Valley, located 50 kilometres northwest of Brandon, and announced the new water treatment project, which Ottawa is providing the full $12 million for through the Indigenous Community Infrastructure Fund.

Nathan Wittmeier, Prairie Water Consultant’s project manager for the new water treatment plant build, said Wednesday that along the valley, two new wells have been installed, and some berms — flat strips of raised land — will be installed around those to protect them and to allow access during times of floods.

A pipeline will be built along the road where the wells are and up the hill to the new water treatment plant, acting as the raw water supply line. Raw water will come in, go through the treatment process, and then the water that comes out will go into the reservoir.

“That reservoir is sized to be able to provide fire flows and also distribution flows to all the connections, up to a population of 2,400. We also have allowances in there for expansion in the future for a population of 4,000,” Wittmeier said.

The water plant has been designed by Associated Engineering, a Canadian consulting engineering firm that provides planning, engineering, environmental science and landscape architecture for more than 70 years, he added. The project went up for tender last month and closed early last month, with Excel-7 Ltd. being chosen.

The new plant should be up and running by the end of 2024, Wittmeier said.

“November is the completion date on it, so we will be looking to go construct the concrete reservoir, and then you’ll see probably just a little bit into the new year, you’ll see the building going up and the cladding, and then all the treatment components installed, and all the electrical and mechanical [ones].”

As well as featuring a larger capacity for Sioux Valley’s growing population, the new water treatment plant will ensure the community doesn’t have any further problems with brown water, which can happen when levels of manganese — a trace mineral — grow too high.

Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone said during her first term in council in 2018-19, the council recognized that water was a priority for the community.

“We did have some trouble with our current water treatment plant at one time, and the whole community was out of water for a day — almost 24 hours. We were facing some challenges. Obviously, our personal care home is on the water line, and what were we going to do with our residents? We were trying to address the problems there,” Bone said.

And while the water treatment plant was able to get back up and running, the council realized that the plant needed upgrades.

After an initial assessment, they realized that the best decision would be to move forward with a brand-new plant rather than doing a lot of upgrades to the current plant.

“It’s also to be able to provide expansion to our growing community,” Bone said.

Tim Whitecloud, a Sioux Valley band councillor, said the project is very positive.

“They’re getting out here, and starting to excavate and dig. It’s going to be busy out here in the valley,” he said. “It’s exciting for the community.”

Coun. Rusty Taylor agreed that the groundbreaking ceremony made for an important day for the people of Sioux Valley.

“It’s very good to see everyone gather here today to witness this,” he said. “This is something that’s been needed for a number of years.”

Bone said the team working on the plant has a wealth of knowledge on water systems, and she is excited to see that knowledge coupled with the wisdom that Dakota elders and knowledge keepers have about the importance of water and the land.

“Water is life, and that’s an important part of our well-being and the community’s well-being, and we wanted to ensure that we started off the project on a good way,” Bone said, adding she was impressed with Excel-7 Ltd. and its team taking part in the groundbreaking ceremony, which included a prayer and blessing by Elder Oswald McKay.

“Without water, the old people say we cannot survive. Just standing here in this little circle, I see life,” McKay told the people who had gathered for the ceremony after his blessing and prayer, pointing out sage and other sacred plants and herbs the Dakota people use as traditional medicines. “The Dakota people believe and know that the Creator put this earth here for the benefit of all living things that he created.”

In the Dakota creation story that McKay spoke about, the Creator made the universe first, the water, and then the land, before creating the tree of life. It all points to the significance of water to Dakota life, he said.

“All of us that are created here … need the water to survive. We can’t survive without it, so we all need to protect it. We all need to cherish it and keep it clean so it will keep on giving us the sustenance we need.”

By Miranda Leybourne, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Sep 07, 2023 at 08:04

This item reprinted with permission from   Brandon Sun   Brandon, Manitoba
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