Nechako Nations file suit against Rio Tinto Alcan

Rio Tinto Alcan is again the target of a law suit relating to its Kenney Dam/reservoir operations.

Rio Tinto Alcan is again the target of a law suit relating to its Kenney Dam/reservoir operations.

On September 29 the Saik’uz and Stellat’en First Nations (referred to as the Nechako Nations in what follows) filed a civil claim in the BC Supreme Court.

The filing says that between them, the two hold aboriginal title to “the Nechako River and the lands along the banks of the Nechako River and its lakes and tributaries including the Stellaquo River, Nautley River, Stoney Creek, Fraser lake, Tachick Lake and Nulki Lake.”

The opening ‘statement of facts’ notes the Nechako River and watershed “has long been, and continues to be, a key source of the [Nechako Nations’] culture, sustenance and fisheries resources.”

And that with the construction of the Kenney Dam in 1952, RTA (Alcan as it was then) “dramatically altered the amount, timing and quality of water flowing into the Nechako River.”

That in turn “impacted and continues to cause unreasonable damage to the rights and interests of the [Nechako Nations] in their property and territories including the lands, waters and fisheries within them.”

While noting that RTA says it has the right to control and divert the Nechako based on various agreements it has signed and licences it has received over the years, the filing notes that the Nechako Nations were not party to any of those and therefore those agreements and licences “are not competent to authorize interference with the [Nechako Nations] legal interests and rights.

And that the adverse impacts of the dam and diversion of the Nechako River included:

q erosion of the banks of the Nechako and its tributaries;

q unnatural sedimentation in the Nechako;

q unnatural flooding and high water flows at times of the year; and

q interference with the ecology of the Nechako impacting vegetation and wildlife.

That translated into a reduction of fisheries resources including salmon, trout and sturgeon, “the gradual process towards extinction of the Nechako River sturgeon”, loss of spawning habitat and changed water flows and temperatures that interfered with the ability of fish to survive and thrive.

Therefore the civil claim seeks an interim injunction “from conducting its operations at the Kenney Dam in such a manner as to cause like nuisances to the [Nechako Nations] and a permanent injunction against “the continuance or repetitions of  said nuisance or from conducting its operations at the Kenney dam in such a manner as to cause like nuisances.”

Plus a mandatory injunction requiring RTA to release waters into the Nechako River “in quantities and times that would have the effect of ensuring that the proprietary interests of the [Nechako nations] are not unreasonably interfered with and of abating the harm suffered by [them].”

The “concise summary” at the end of the filing says the Nechako Nations seek an injunction compelling RTA to release water into the Nechako from the reservoir “undiminished in quality and quantity and sufficient to enable the restoration of viable fish habitat and spawning grounds in the Nechako and its tributaries.”

Asked for comment, RTA community and corporate affairs manager Colleen Nyce said, “Rio Tinto Alcan is taking the time necessary to review the statement of claim received a few days ago. As this matter is before the courts, we will not make further comment.”


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