B.C. government working to right 60-year old wrongs associated with construction of 890-MW Kenney hydroelectric plant

The British Columbian government has signed a framework agreement with the Cheslatta T’En Nation to determine restitutions for construction of the 890-MW Kenney hydroelectric plant.

Located on the Nechako River, Kenney was constructed in the early 1950s to power an aluminum smelter, at which point its reservoir forced the displacement of Cheslatta from their traditional territory and destroyed hunting, fishing and cultural sites. Nechako Reservoir is also estimated to cover more than 60 Cheslatta graves, causing remains to occasionally surface along its shoreline.

“We cannot change history, but working together, we can create more opportunity and sustainable prosperity for the Cheslatta people,” B.C. Premier Christy Clark said during a recent visit to a Cheslatta community. “With goodwill and commitment, we are working to chart a new path to reconciliation.”

The agreement, announced today by the provincial government, will “explore economic opportunities in the resource sector, power infrastructure to support future industrial development, cultural, heritage and training initiatives, and financial payments”, according to a release. The transfer of Crown land and resource-use tenures will also be considered.

“The recognition and willingness of the provincial government to resolve this on-going issue between the Cheslatta T’En and B.C. gives me confidence that, as a community leader, I can move my people forward with dignity toward a long term resolution,” said Chief Corrina Leween. “I’m excited, emotional and pleased and I believe this agreement will be positive for the Cheslatta community, as well as for neighboring First Nations, our local community and the region as a whole.”

The framework agreement provides the Cheslatta with early benefits valued up to $2.3 million, according to the province.

The plant has been owned and operated by Rio Tinto Alcan since its construction.

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Michael Harris formerly was Editor for HydroWorld.com.

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