Cheslatta Carrier Nation is looking for viable solutions to the on going problem of the flooding and destruction of their homelands, due to flows of water released from the Skins Lake spillway.
For the past 62 years, since the Kenny Dam was built and the Skins Lake spillway was constructed to release water from the Nechako reservoir into the upper Nechako River, high water flows and massive erosion has cause extensive flooding of the Cheslatta River, and has caused the destruction of graves and cemeteries on Cheslatta land.
“We have worked alone, we have worked with Rio Tinto Alcan (RTA), now it is time we all work together in finding a viable and sustainable solution that will satisfy everyone,” Richard Peters, Chief of Cheslatta Carrier Nation said.
Cheslatta Carrier Nation’s current proposal would see the construction of a cold water release facility at the Kenny Dam.
In order to construct the water release facility Cheslatta Carrier Nation applied for a water license in September 2013, as well they looked to receive consent from RTA.
Cheslatta Carrier Nation has also looked at other options in their discussion with RTA, although the cold water release facility at the Kenny Dam is of primary concern to Cheslatta Carrier Nation.
“Our main goal is to bring stability to the Cheslatta system and have some kind of certainty on the downstream flows because right now it’s just at the whim of Mother Nature sometimes,” Mike Robertson, Senior Policy Advisor for Cheslatta Carrier Nation said.
The flooding of the Cheslatta system is an annual problem that Cheslatta Carrier Nation faces, due to the annual summer temperature management spills that are necessary to maintain a safe water temperature in the Nechako River for the migrating salmon.
Flooding may occur twice a year in the event of extreme high runoff in the spring. Water is released to maintain the level of the Nechako reservoir.
Robertson said that Cheslatta Carrier Nation has called upon the provincial government for assistance, and added that the government has been very proactive in this project.
“We’re open to achieve some kind of framework by the end of the summer. Right now we’re very positive I can’t see this process falling apart. We’re enthusiastic the government is definitely involved along with RTA,” Robertson said.
Colleen Nyce, Communications Specialist for RTA’s B.C. headquarters, says that RTA is currently trying to arrange a meeting with Cheslatta Carrier Nation to better understand their discussions with the provincial government.
“We have a good relationship with Cheslatta Carrier Nation Council and we look forward to working with them on important matters such as this as we go forward,” Nyce said.
Robertson also adds that this is a long outstanding overdue issue.
“If things were done right we wouldn’t be talking about this,” Robertson said, in regard to the original building of a spillway that should’ve taken place in the 1950’s when the Kenny Dam was built.
Robertson though remains optimistic about the issue, saying that Cheslatta hope that a resolution will occur sometime late this summer, or in the early Fall.
“Cheslatta Carrier Nation has a very productive business relationship with RTA, and we have been fully engaged in open and honest discussions over bringing resolve to the flooding issue in the Cheslatta system,” Robertson said.