The Comox Valley Project Watershed Society and the K’ómoks First Nation have reached an agreement with Interfor Corporation to purchase and restore the former Field sawmill site in Courtenay, B.C.

“After several years of negotiations, we are pleased to announce that we have an accepted offer to purchase the property from Interfor,” stated Tim Ennis, Director for Project Watershed. “Project Watershed, the K’ómoks First Nation and Interfor are all extremely excited to see this project evolve; now it’s time for the heavy lifting to start.”

In 2014, the Comox Valley Project Watershed Society began discussions with Interfor who owns the site and ascertained that they were supportive of a conservation solution to the land. Early conversations with both the K’ómoks First Nation and the City of Courtenay confirmed that Project Watershed’s proposal to purchase and restore the land as possible. While Project Watershed is recognized internationally for its marine stewardship, restoration and science capabilities, it does not hold title to land. The City of Courtenay is reviewing opportunities for joint land ownership with K’ómoks First Nation to facilitate the site restoration process.

The K’ómoks First Nation’s interest in the site is based on its strong cultural significance. “The K’ómoks First Nation has long looked forward to regaining our traditional, cultural sites throughout our unceded traditional territory,” explained Chief Councillor Nicole Rempel. “This site is an old K’ómoks First Nation Village, and our participation in this project is without prejudice to any specific claim the K’ómoks First Nation may file in relation to this site. Restoring this cultural and historically significant site to its natural state is a vision we share with Project Watershed and our participation in this project is without prejudice to any specific claim the K’ómoks First Nation may file in relation to this site.”

The land is in K’ómoks First Nation traditional territory and the Nation’s work with the Comox Valley Project Watershed Society is not intended to abrogate or derogate from out K’ómoks Aboriginal title and other Aboriginal rights. Any steps the Nation takes working in conjunction with the Comox Valley Project Watershed Society must not be interpreted as extinguishing or consenting to the infringement of Aboriginal title and rights. After consultation with both past and present Chief and Council, the name Kus-kus-sum was chosen as the new name for the property. Chief Councillor Nicole Rempel and Band Administrator Tina McLean for K’ómoks First Nation have joined the Project Watershed negotiating committee to ensure the K’omoks First Nation’s interests are well represented.

The City of Courtenay is investigating the potential for flood attenuation through returning the site to a more natural condition. In June 2017, Council unanimously supported a motion agreeing in principle to share in the ownership of the property alongside K’ómoks First Nation.

“Now that we have agreed on the basic parameters of a deal, we need to negotiate a contract of purchase and sale and work towards removing conditions,” explained Ennis. “This will involve negotiating specific details with the City, the Nation and other governments with jurisdiction in the estuary. From there we will need to roll up our sleeves and begin fundraising in earnest. We have a limited amount of time to raise the funds required to complete the purchase and restoration work. Failure to do so could see the property go back on the market. The total project cost is estimated at $6.5M.”

Project Watershed is committed to restoring the decommissioned site with a view to returning the site as much as possible to its natural state, preserving it for future generations. “We have been successful at securing funds from federal, provincial, private and international funding agencies to support the conservation and sustainability of many vital areas in and around the Comox Valley. We are confident in our ability to protect and support this site’s ecological integrity once it is rehabilitated” stated Dan Bowen, Technical Director for Project Watershed.

The Comox Valley Project Watershed Society and the K’ómoks First Nation look forward to updating the public, as more information is available about this land purchase.

K’ómoks First Nation, Comox Valley Project Watershed Society