The Canadian Province of British Columbia and BC Hydro have reached agreements in principle with the Tsay Keh Dene Band and the Kwadacha Nation that will address the impacts of flooding from the WAC Bennett dam and Williston reservoir in the Peace river valley region.
The Tsay Keh Dene and Kwadacha First Nations filed lawsuits against British Columbia in 1999 and 2001 respectively, claiming damages from the impact of the construction and operation of the dam and reservoir. These impacts included the dislocation of community members and lost hunting, trapping and fishing areas, as well as traditional gathering sites and burial grounds. The lawsuits were put in abeyance and the parties have since been involved in negotiations with BC Hydro and the Province of British Columbia.
‘This agreement will allow the Tsay Keh Dene community to move forward, despite the many challenges we have had to face in the last 40 years,’ said Tsay Keh Dene Chief Johnny Pierre. ‘We look forward to a new relationship of mutual respect with BC Hydro and the province.’
‘We are pleased that our issues have been recognised and a fair settlement reached,’ added Kwadacha Chief Donny Van Somer. ‘We can now begin to put some difficult times behind us and look to a more positive future.’
The parties intend to move quickly to conclude final agreement negotiations based on the AIPs. Once fully implemented, the agreements will provide time limited payments of approximately $14M to each First Nation and ongoing annual payments of approximately $1.9M to the Tsay Keh Dene and $1.5M to the Kwadacha with future adjustments for inflation. Further commitments include funding for health and heritage studies and contracting opportunities totalling approximately $11M for both communities.
The First Nation communities must vote on the final agreements before they receive the full benefits. The litigation against the province and BC Hydro regarding the creation of Williston reservoir and the hydroelectric generation facilities will be settled by the final agreements. These agreements will also provide certainty for the future operations of BC Hydro’s facilities and the future relationship between BC Hydro and the First Nations.