Tofino and Ucluelet are rallying to help their Ahousaht neighbours who have been without potable water since a water main break on Friday.
The break occurred below sea leavel and, with no low tide expected until Dec. 27, the remote First Nation located roughly 20 kilometres from Tofino faces a tough slog to repair it.
The community remained without water on Wednesday.
Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns has urged the federal government to assist and the Westerly has reached out to Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada for comment but has not yet heard back.
In the meantime, Tofino and Ucluelet are offering whatever assistance they can provide to help their neighbour.
“It’s an automatic reaction,” Ucluelet mayor Dianne St. Jacques told the Westerly News. “That’s what we do. We’re neighbours out here and we support each other. Our location puts us in a situation where we’re the support group for each other.”
She noted Ucluelet trucked water out to Tofino during the Tofino water crisis of 2006 and is putting a plan together to truck water out to Ahousaht.
She said she planned to speak with Ahousaht officials later on today to discuss what’s needed.
“More discussion will take place today,” she said.
Tofino mayor Josie Osborne said she and her district staff are also in close communication with Ahousaht “to offer anything we can.”
“The offers are all out there so anything we can do we will do,” she said.
“It’s a critical need that suddenly arises. You do everything you can to help people have one of the most basic necessities of life: potable water…That’s part of the importance of being a good neighbour. If we had an emergency we would rely on our neighbours for help.”
Tofino set up a warming centre at its community hall over the weekend to welcome Ahousaht elders and other community members who had been evacuated but that centre was not activated as the Tin Wis Resort stepped in to assist.
Osborne said the Ahousaht crisis has shed light on the need for stronger emergency coordination across the Coast and said the details about how emergency response is supposed to happen are currently unclear.
“I know that a task number has been issued by EMBC and all of that, but I don’t know enough about the relationship between the different levels of government and, frankly, it’s something that I should know better and that we should all know better,” she said.
“I’ve certainly heard frustrations that have been expressed by different people at different levels of government. The first and most pressing need is to help them take care of the water situation and then, after that, we need to understand what is supposed to happen when something like this happens. How do we get the quickest most efficient help possible?”
She hopes to see emergency communication strategies hashed out.
“First of all, I would like to see more coordination between the communities so that we understand what each other’s emergency responses are and that we’re better positioned to help each other,” she said.
“Then I would also like to see more subregional coordination…The [ACRD] is the big region of Alberni Valley all the way out to the West Coast and including Bamfield. A subregion where it makes sense to coordinate emergency planning would be: Tofino, Ucluelet, Area C and the First Nations.”
She said the ACRD talked about this during a meeting roughly three weeks ago.
“We’re just about to embark on our annual budgeting process and something that came up at our first strategic planning meeting was establishing a service for West Coast emergency planning,” she said. “We’ll be in discussions about that over 2017 and then it’s quite possible we’ll set up a new service in 2018.”