British Columbia and BC Hydro agreed Dec. 12 to pay two First Nations C$28 million (US$24.2 million), plus annual payments of more than C$3.4 million (US$2.9 million), to settle lawsuits aimed at W.A.C. Bennett Dam and its 2,730-MW G.M. Shrum hydro plant.
British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell announced the agreements in principle with the Tsay Keh Dene Band and the Kwadacha Nation. The nations sued the province-owned utility in 1999 and 2001, claiming damages from construction and operation of W.A.C. Bennett Dam, Williston Reservoir, and G.M. Shrum, on the Peace River near Revelstoke. (HNN 4/17/06)
The nations alleged project construction and inundation caused dislocation of community members; the loss of hunting, trapping, and fishing areas; and loss of traditional gathering sites and burial grounds. The lawsuits eventually were put on hold while settlement agreements were negotiated.
The Tsay Keh Dene and Kwadacha communities must ratify final agreements before the First Nations receive full benefits.
Once implemented, the agreements provide for payment of C$14 million (US$12.1 million) to each First Nation, and ongoing annual payments of C$1.9 million (US$1.6 million) to the Tsay Keh Dene and C$1.5 million (US$1.3 million) to the Kwadacha. British Columbia also committed to fund health and heritage studies, and to offer the nations contracting opportunities totaling about C$11 million (US$9.5 million).
The agreements are to resolve the litigation against the province and BC Hydro, providing certainty for the future operation of BC Hydro’s facilities and the future relationship between BC Hydro and the First Nations.