The Canadian Province of British Columbia and BC Hydro have signed an agreement with the St'át'imc First Nation and each of its 11 member bands that, once ratified, will address the longstanding grievances related to the construction and operation of BC Hydro's Bridge River system.

The Final Agreement will provide the St’át’imc with compensation, mitigation of impacts and economic opportunities. The agreement will also provide BC Hydro and the B.C. government with operational certainty for the future.

The settlement will provide an initial sum payment and additional payments over time, the majority of which will be put into a long term Trust. Each of the 11 member bands will also receive separate payments under their respective Community Agreements.

“This agreement represents an important step forward in resolving the historical grievances of the St’át’imc, stemming from power projects that were an important part of B.C.’s economic development decades ago and which continue to be of strategic importance to everyone in our province today,” said Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation Barry Penner. “We believe this agreement, once ratified, will provide current and future generations of St’át’imc with the resources necessary to build a brighter future.”

A ratification vote is tentatively scheduled by St’át’imc community members for the spring of 2011. Subject to a successful ratification process, the Final Agreement will be signed by all parties shortly thereafter. BC Hydro and the St’át’imc have been negotiating an agreement since 1993.

“This is but a small measure of justice for our people,” said Mike Leach, St’át’imc Chief Negotiator. “The St’át’imc Chiefs’ Council is looking forward to the ratification process and visiting each community to answer questions and explain the benefits of the agreement we worked hard to achieve. We will be ensuring that all of our people will be able to make informed decisions regarding these agreements, and appreciate the cooperation of our community band offices to help make this a success. This agreement is about creating a stronger, healthier, happier future for our people.”

“By initialling this agreement, BC Hydro is demonstrating our commitment to build respectful, sustainable relationships with the St’át’imc communities,” said BC Hydro President and CEO Dave Cobb. “This agreement took considerable hard work and dedication over many years and we want to thank the efforts of all the individuals involved who helped us reach this final stage. We also want to recognize those who have worked with us in the past and are no longer with us but whose efforts were instrumental in reaching this agreement.”

In addition to financial compensation, the agreement provides funding for:

• Environmental initiatives to help restore fish, wildlife and vegetation

• A heritage plan to preserve and promote St’át’imc culture

• A relations agreement to assist in developing a long-term sustainable relationship

• An education and training component to build capacity within the communities

The St’át’imc is made up of 11 bands. Collectively, they own 75 reserves and their asserted territory encompasses 1.6 million hectares. BC Hydro’s Bridge River assets are located entirely within St’át’imc asserted traditional territory. These assets include: three dams, three reservoirs, four generating stations, 15 transmission circuits totalling approximately 850km of transmission lines, 160km of access roads and four recreation facilities.

The density of BC Hydro assets in St’át’imc’ asserted territory is greater than that found anywhere else in British Columbia and account for approximately 5% of BC Hydro’s generation capacity.