B.C. compensates First NaB.C. compensates First Nation for effects of W.A.C. Bennett Damtion for effects of W.A.C. Bennett Dam

The government of British Columbia and province-owned utility BC Hydro have agreed to pay millions of dollars to the Kwadacha First Nation in compensation for economic and social problems caused by W.A.C. Bennett Dam, part of the 2,730-MW G.M. Shrum hydroelectric project.

The parties announced an agreement Nov. 27, providing an initial payment of C$15 million (US$12 million) and annual payments of about C$1.6 million (US$1.3 million) to the Kwadacha First Nation, with future adjustments for inflation. Most of the initial payment is to establish an endowment fund to secure future economic returns. The Kwadacha also will establish an advisory committee to hear community members’ requests and suggestions for spending the money.

The settlement releases the province and BC Hydro from litigation initiated by the Kwadacha First Nation in 2001 for alleged breach of fiduciary duty, infringement of aboriginal rights, and damages related to construction and operation of Bennett Dam and Williston Reservoir. The agreement is intended to provide certainty of current and future operations of BC Hydro’s Peace River facilities �- W.A.C. Bennett Dam, Williston Reservoir, and 694-MW Peace Canyon Dam. (HNN 11/20/08)

In December 2006, the B.C. government announced an agreement in principle between the province, BC Hydro, and the Kwadacha First Nation to recognize the socio-economic effects of building the dam and reservoir. (HNN 12/14/06)

The dam was completed more than 40 years ago, in 1967. Its Williston Reservoir is the largest body of water in British Columbia. Creation of the reservoir exacerbated the isolation of the Kwadacha and increased their cost of living, BC Hydro said. The First Nation said the project also had impaired its ability to continue its traditional way of life based on hunting, trapping, and gathering.

�This agreement acknowledges that the construction of the W.A.C. Bennett Dam and Williston Reservoir more than 40 years ago caused significant economic and social problems for the Kwadacha,� BC Hydro Senior Vice President Chris O’Riley said. �At the same time, the agreement enables us to move forward by building a new relationship between the Kwadacha and BC Hydro that is based on mutual understanding, respect, and trust.�

Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation Minister Michael de Jong said the agreement addresses hardships the Kwadacha endured for several decades and is a significant achievement that results from hard work and desire by all parties to achieve reconciliation for past injustices.

As a result of the agreement, Kwadacha First Nation is undertaking a plan to address housing shortages and improve living standards in the community of Fort Ware. The agreement also will provide the First Nation with contracting and employment prospects, the parties said.

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