IHS engineer Bijay Tamang explains upgrades of the Nespelem water system during an event unveiling the project, Dec. 23. LEFT: CBC Chair Rodney Cawston.

NESPELEM - At a small ceremony to unveil the town of Nespelem’s new water system, Dec. 23, Nespelem Mayor Darcy Epperson said the upgrade would allow the town to lift a moratorium on new housing and projects that had been in place for several years.

“This has been a long, long time coming,” said Epperson. “It is a celebration for the town of Nespelem and all of those around us. The town couldn’t move forward until this project was done. 

The project came through a memorandum of agreement between the town and the Colville Confederated Planning Department, said Epperson.

In Sept. 2019, the Colville Business Council approved a resolution that called for a three year agreement between the town, the Colville Tribal Planning Department and Colville Tribal Department of Transportation that “outlines the rights and responsibilities between CCT Planning and Town of Nespelem relating to the Town of Nespelem projects, including the planning process and needs associated with identifying and working toward remedying any deficiencies within the Town’s infrastructure.”

When the Planning department reached out to the town, Epperson noted the town was stuck until they could fix the town pump. 

“They knew we had things we needed to get done that we didn’t know how to do,” said Epperson, noting tribal employees Ernie Rasmussen, now with the Washington State Department of Commerce, and Matthew Pleasants provided Planning and technical expertise.

The repairs include upgrading the pump, plumbing tree and electrical panel. The project was paid for through $50,000 from the Colville Tribes and $25,000 from the Indian Health Services.

“These projects like this take a lot of time to be completed,” said Colville Business Council Chair Rodney Cawston. “I know there was a lot of work done over several years, but it is a big step for this community to get this pump here and looking at the future developments that could take place … This really is a big improvement for the town of Nespelem, having good, reliable, clean water for all.”

Epperson also recognized the late-Janet Nicholson for her work in the project as both a community member and during her time on the Colville Business Council, presenting Nicholson’s family with flowers. Nicholson passed away in 2020.

“I know Janet always kept of a checklist of everything she wanted to do,” said CBC member Andy Joseph Jr., speaking about his former peer. “This was on there. I hope that somehow we could work together with the town of Nespelem to do more improvements. They are needed. We look around to different cities and what they get to have. Sometimes I think it just takes those partnerships, lobbying and pushing for funding.”

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