Christy Clark visits Ahousaht for economic agreement, emergency preparedness funding

Water taxis and fishing boats from Ahousaht First Nation were first on the scene during the Leviathan II sinking in October, now an elected chief says he hopes more safety funding will come for zodiacs and a communications station.

Community hopes run-of-river power in Clayoquot Sound could help local economy

Ahousaht First Nations elected chief Greg Louie (left) speaks on Friday, August 12, at an event in the community while Premier Christy Clark looks on. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

The province signed an economic partnership with the Ahousaht First Nation on Friday which will provide $1.25 million over five years to Ahousaht's leadership to find economic opportunities.

Ahousaht is a remote community on the West Coast of Vancouver Island that has long struggled with high unemployment.

"These can't be solutions that are imposed from somewhere else. When it comes to resource development, when it comes to tourism development, First Nations communities have to be integral to that," Premier Christy Clark said at an event in the community.

The Ahousaht hope hydro power could be part of the solution. They are proposing a run-of-river project in Clayoquot Sound.

"That's an aspiration of ours to create employment and opportunities and do it in a sustainable and clean way," said hereditary chief Shawn Atleo.

"When I was a little kid we used to play around our houses and their would be diesel fuel seeping up from the tanks."

The agreement with the province also promises to look at renaming significant geographic locations in the region to better reflect the connection the Ahousaht have with the land.

Ahousaht First Nation elected chief Greg Louie speaks at an event with Premier Christy Clark. Two community members who assisted in the Leviathan II rescue Michelle Campbell (left) and Ken Brown joined them on stage. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

Premier bestows medal

The Premier was also in the community to bestow the B.C. Medal of Good Citizenship on the community for their rescue efforts during the Leviathan II disaster.

In October, the whale-watching ship capsized and water taxis and fishing boats from Ahousaht rushed to the scene and managed to save all but six lives.

"This is what we do all the time without second thought: we help our visitors in our chief's territory," elected chief Greg Louie said.

Clark also announced a long-promised $50,000 grant to support emergency response and preparation in Ahousaht.

But Louie says he hopes the grant is only the start of more support.

He says the band would like to purchase zodiac boats and open a command station but that will take much more than $50,000.

With files from Megan Thomas.