British Columbia First Nation sees partial win in combat towards Rio Tinto’s Kenney Dam

On Saturday, the BC Supreme Court docket launched a choice acknowledging the dam’s damaging impacts on the Nechako River and, as a consequence, on the aboriginal rights of the Stellat’en and Saik’uz First Nations.

However the courtroom stopped wanting assigning blame to the dam’s proprietor, Rio Tinto, because it was licensed by the B.C. and federal governments.

In launching a nuisance swimsuit towards Rio Tinto – previously generally known as Rio Tinto Alcan — the Stellat’en and Saik’uz had hoped for an order that a minimum of would order the corporate to handle river movement ranges. Their swimsuit was supported by a decision of the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako.

In March 2021, Stellat’en Chief Robert Michell informed BIV Information that one hoped-for treatment was an order that Rio Tinto scale back the quantity of water it makes use of to energy its Kitimat aluminum smelter, since about 20% of the facility generated is surplus energy that’s offered to BC Hydro.

The courtroom declined to go that far, however did discover that senior governments have an obligation to guard aboriginal fishing rights and take “applicable steps” to guard the river and its fish.

“Whereas we’re disenchanted that Alcan has not been immediately required as we speak to revive the movement of the river, we’re glad that the courtroom has acknowledged that the Crown has an obligation to take optimistic motion to guard the fish and our rights as First Nations individuals,” Saik’uz Chief Priscilla Mueller mentioned in a press launch.

The Kenney dam was constructed within the Nineteen Fifties to create the Nechako Reservoir, which powers the Kemano producing station 75 kilometres southeast of Kitimat.

It’s estimated that river movement within the higher Nechako River is 36% of what it was earlier than the dam was constructed. Decrease river flows are believed to be behind a dramatic decline in fish, notably sturgeon.

Nechako white sturgeon are thought of endangered by the Committee on the Standing of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Efforts have been underway over time to rebuild declining shares by means of a hatchery.

When the case went to the BC Supreme Court docket final yr, Rio Tinto acknowledged the hurt attributable to damming the Nechako and mentioned it was dedicated to “sustaining an open dialogue with native First Nations and the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako to search out options.”

(This text first appeared in Enterprise in Vancouver)

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