Nechako River, as captured in Oct, 2020. (Aman Parhar/Omineca Express)

Nechako River, as captured in Oct, 2020. (Aman Parhar/Omineca Express)

RDBN calls on Canada, B.C. and Rio Tinto to restore the natural flow of the Nechako River

Regional district shares concerns over the Water Engagement Initiative organized by Rio Tinto

The Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako passed a resolution to acknowledge the “long-standing interference” on the claims of Indigenous communities in the Nechako First Nations region.

Construction and operation of the Kenney Dam has caused interference on the claim of Aboriginal rights and title of First Nations, specifically Saik’uz First Nation, Stellat’en First Nation and Nadleh Whut’en, RDBN officials noted in a March 10 news release.

Officials are asking the federal government, provincial government and Rio Tinto to do “all things necessary to support the efforts of the Nechako First Nations to restore the ecosystem functioning of the Nechako River and its affected tributaries.”

Gerry Thiessen, RDBN chairperson and Vanderhoof Mayor said, “Local communities, First Nations and non-Indigenous communities alike have suffered from the impacts of the Nechako water management regime which has prioritized energy production over a healthy river and fish populations.”

READ MORE: Vanderhoof mayor frustrated over province’s back-and-forth orders over river management

Thiessen said the citizens of the region who depend on the river, “deserve a healthy river and watershed — and a legitimate seat at the table when it comes to water management.”

He also said the RDBN has concerns over Rio Tinto’s Water Engagement Initiative as being a sufficient or “legitimate” forum for community input on water management. The Water Engagement Initiative was started by Rio Tinto in 2019 as a means of collaborating with First Nations, members of the public and governments in the Nechako region.

The resolution which was published March 9 by the regional district stated the Nechako River is no longer a functional ecosystem and that more naturalized flows in the river and its affected tributaries are required to restore ecosystem functions in the Nechako Watershed.

In the resolution, the regional district stated it considers it “desirable” to find an adaptive co-management regime for governance involving the Nechako First Nations, other impacted First Nations, and local governments within the Nechako Watershed, to collectively represent the watershed region.

Priscilla Mueller, Chief of Saik’uz First Nation, said the community welcomed the support it has received from the regional district to restore the health of the Nechako.

“The regional district resolution demonstrates a commitment to environmental stewardship as well as to reconciliation. We look forward to collaborating with our non-Indigenous neighbours including the regional district, to make our shared river flourish again.”

READ MORE: Saik’uz and Stellat’en First Nations court battle against RioTinto Alcan

Stellat’en First Nation Chief Robert Mitchell said the Nechako was the “economic and spiritual lifeblood — our grocery store, our highway, our church.”

“It was taken away from us and converted into an industrial canal without any consultation or compensation. We need what was lost to be returned. And when it is — when the river is brought back to health — everyone in the region will stand to benefit.”

Larry Nooski, Chief for Nadleh Whut’en, said after the Kenney Dam was built, “water stopped flowing the way it always had.” He said he remembers the heartbreak felt by elders at the time as they realized the construction of the dam brought an end to a great river.

In an email statement March 10, Rio Tinto spokesperson said, “Rio Tinto recognises the importance of these issues and remains committed to maintaining an open dialogue with local First Nations and the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako to find solutions. Through the Water Engagement Initiative, we welcome a discussion to continue improving the health of the Nechako river and to address collaboratively the many interests represented in the watershed.”

Nechako River history

The Nechako was one of the largest tributaries of the Fraser River and was a breeding ground for the Nechako white sturgeon and contributed significantly to highly valued salmon populations.

Kenney Dam was constructed in the 1950s, to provide hydro power to an aluminum smelter in Kitimat. As stated by the regional district, completion of the dam fundamentally altered flow patterns of the river.

Most of the water that would have otherwise flowed down the Nechako has been diverted west, through the mountains, to produce hydro power for the smelter. According to the release issued by the regional district, from 1985 to 2018 the average flow of the Upper Nechako River is estimated to have been just 36 percent of the natural flow prior to the construction of the dam.

Reduction in the natural flow has affected fish populations with the Nechako White sturgeon on the precipice of extinction. Additionally, officials said the lack of spring freshet and the de-watering of the floodplain and side channels are interfering with chinook salmon productivity and recruitment.

“Reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in the Nechako region is incompatible with the current operation of the Kenney Dam and Nechako Reservoir. The regional district stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the Nechako First Nations in opposition to the continued degradation of the Nechako watershed and in the hope for a meaningful role in the management of a new, more natural flow regime,” stated the release.

READ MORE: Cheslatta Carrier Nation and Rio Tinto sign a historic agreement


Aman Parhar
Editor – Vanderhoof Omineca Express, Caledonia Courier

aman.parhar@ominecaexpress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

British ColumbiaBulkley-Nechako Regional District

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Rio Tinto BC Works General Manager Affonso Bizon receives his shot from Jordan Pacheco, a Rio Tinto paramedic. (Rio Tinto supplied photo)
60% of Rio Tinto’s eligible workforce have been administered COVID-19 vaccine

Immunization clinics within industrial sites are administering vaccines to workers 40 years or older

Gates will open at 8:30 p.m. with the first film starting around 9:15 p.m. - 9:30 p.m. (AFFNO file photo)
AFFNO hosts french film all weekend in the Kitimat-Stikine and Northcoast Region

AFFNO had to create different approaches this year to set up events

Radley Park and Hirsch Creek Park campgrounds will open on May long weekend but only for those who reside in the Northern or Interior Health regions. (Jacob Lubberts photo)
VIDEO: Kitimat camping still a go for May long weekend

Kitimat Campgrounds will still follow restriction put in place by PHO

UPDATE: Missing person found. (photo supplied)
UPDATE: missing person found – Kitimat local reported missing since May 2nd

If you have any information contact the local RCMP at (250) 632-7111

Rio Tinto donated $60,000 to BC Children’s Hospital as they look into the impact the pandemic has had on the mental health of young Canadians. (BC Children’s Hospital logo)
Rio Tinto supports BC Children’s Hospital mental health study

“This study will help us find out how we can better allocate mental health resources for youth”

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to start releasing neighbourhood-specific COVID numbers after data leak

Documents obtained by the Vancouver Sun show cases broken down by neighbourhoods

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix update B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, April 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count creeps up, seven more deaths

445 people in hospital, 157 in intensive care

Summerland’s positive test rate is much higher than surrounding local health areas, according to internal BC CDC documents. (BC CDC)
Summerland 3rd behind Surrey, Abbotsford in daily per capita COVID-19 cases

Interior Health is rolling out additional vaccine availability to the community

Amazon is pausing its Prime Day marketing event in Canada this year amid ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks at its facilities in Ontario. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Amazon Prime Day halted in Canada due to COVID-19 outbreaks in warehouses

The event was postponed to protect the health and safety of employees and customers, the company says

Ally Thomas, 12, seen in an undated family handout photo, died on April 14 from a suspected overdose. Her family says they are frustrated more public supports weren't available when they tried to get her help. THE CANADIAN PRESS
Minister says suspected overdose death of 12-year-old pushing B.C. to ‘do better’

Minister Sheila Malcolmson of Mental Health and Addictions says the government is working ‘as hard as we can’ to build a system of care for youths

At this Highway 3 check point, police officers will be asking for identification from drivers, documentation regarding the driver’s name and address, and the purpose for the driver’s travel. (RCMP)
No fines handed out at 1st COVID-19 roadblock as checks move across B.C.

Cpl. Chris Manseau says a total of 127 vehicles were stopped at a roadblock in the Manning Park area

A spectator looks on as the Olympic Caldron is relit in downtown Vancouver, Wednesday, February 12, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Small majority of B.C. residents in favour of a Vancouver 2030 Olympic bid: survey

A new survey shows a split over the possibility of public money being spent to organize and host the winter games

Junior A team Coquitlam Express is offering all Tri-City residents who get vaccinated against COVID-19 a free ticket to one of their games. (Facebook/Coquitlam Express)
B.C. hockey team offering free tickets to hometown fans who get the COVID-19 vaccine

‘We know the only way to get fans back is people getting vaccinated,’ says Express’ general manager Tali Campbell

Most Read