Cheslatta Carrier Nation (CCN) might see some relief from the yearly flooding at the Cheslatta Lake and River system this year.
According to the River Forecast Centre’s April 1, 2016, snow survey and water supply bulletin, below normal snowpack indices – 65 to 80 per cent – are present in the Upper Fraser West and Nechako basins.
Mike Robertson, Senior Policy Advisor for CCN, said that unless the region sees an unusual amount of precipitation within the next couple of months, there is little possibility of flooding this year.
Cheslatta has dealt with the yearly flooding at the Cheslatta Lake and River system since 1952. The flooding has caused over 60 graves to be washed away.
“Each year, the members of our nation re-live that devastation of knowing their ancestors are somewhere out in the lake,” said CCN Chief Corrina Leween. “My grandparents; great-grandparents; aunts and uncles are amongst the graves that have been washed away.”
Last year, CCN reached an agreement with the province to help address flooding impacts. The province provided $400,000 to support Cheslatta for short-term watershed restoration projects in their traditional territory. Robertson said these projects include designing side channel prescriptions for the Cheslatta River, investigating Cheslatta Lake surface elevation stabilization options and finishing access to Belgatse Village.
However, he says the ultimate solution for the yearly flooding remains the construction of a cold water release facility at Kenney Dam. The facility would eliminate the need to flood the Cheslatta Lake system.
“This would allow reservoir water to be released directly into the Nechako River, completely bypassing the Cheslatta system,” explained Robertson.
The Kenney Dam was built in 1952 to create a water reservoir to supply downstream hydro-electric turbine to power the Rio Tinto aluminum smelters. More than 120,000 acres of land were flooded, creating the Nechako reservoir.
Cheslatta has been engaged in discussions with Rio Tinto since May 2012 to build the cold water release facility at Kenney Dam.
Robertson said last week that CCN continues to have discussions with Rio Tinto.
Rio Tinto did not respond by press time.
The annual flooding of the Cheslatta system is due to Nechako reservoir’s elevation management flows.
Since the construction of the Kenney Dam and the creation of the Nechako Reservoir, the Cheslatta Lake and River system has been utilized as a spillway channel, linking the reservoir with the Nechako River.