First Nation sues BC Hydro over power generation impacts
A statement by the BC Supreme Court states that BC Hydro’s system has “drastically altered the land and sea landscape in Katzie Territory, including by restricting or eradicating many of the Katzie’s culturally important salmon.”
Katzie First Nation of BC is suing BC Hydro and the provincial government over alleged breaches of contract to mitigate the impact of power generation work on the Alouette River.
“BC Hydro failed in good faith to perform its contractual obligations and breached its duty to act with integrity in dealings with Katzie, according to a civil complaint filed Oct. 20 in the BC Superior Court.
The Katzie Territory is located in the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows area of the Fraser Valley.
The nation claims the Alouette river system as one of the most important waterways for its culture and economy.
According to the court documents, BC Hydro and its predecessor, BC Electric Railway Company, began developing a hydroelectric power system on the river from 1924.
The claim says the system has “drastically altered the land and sea landscape in catzie territory, including by restricting or eradicating many of the catzie’s culturally important salmon.”
BC Hydro received conditional approval from Victoria in 1995 to build a new power station at Stave Falls on the river. The Crown Corporation had to consult with the Katzie First Nation and others about the plan.
Then, according to the allegation, BC Hydro applied for a license in 1995 to double the amount of water diverted from the river to generate electricity.
The Katzie First Nation said it would not support it unless the ongoing impact was addressed. After some negotiation, the parties signed an impact mitigation agreement in 1996, the lawsuit said. As part of that deal, BC Hydro worked with Katzie to find ways for the two to coexist in the river system.
In 1998 an impact study was conducted and identified the Katzie First Nation’s use of the river system for food, travel, spirituality and the country’s economy.
The cat said in the claim that BC Hydro did nothing to mitigate the impacts identified in the study 25 years ago.
Both parties met in 2019 and 2020 to discuss the situation; However, the talks have been paused due to the pandemic.
Sessions resumed in 2021. According to the allegation, BC Hydro said in February 2021 that it was under no obligation to discuss compensation or impact.
The Katzie First Nation then filed a lawsuit alleging violation of the abatement treaty. It is also seeking orders that BC Hydro identify Katzie’s rights in the area, that BC Hydro identify historical and ongoing impacts caused by the utility’s activities, and that the company or the Department of Energy, Mines and Low-Carbon Innovation carry out the Responsibility for mitigating the impact on the river.
Spokeswoman Susie Rieder told Glacier Media that BC Hydro recognizes that its power system is impacting indigenous communities.
“We are committed to working with these communities, including the Katzie First Nation, to build relationships that respect their interests,” Rieder said.
She said BC Hydro has been working with the Katzie for two decades to address concerns related to the system’s impact on their community.
“For example, we have consistently participated in our operational and project activities in the region,” said Rieder. “We have worked together on water use planning and on major projects like the Interior to Lower Mainland transmission line. More recently, and consistent with seeking a permit for our operations, we have modified our projects and water licensing operations in the southern Alouette River area to ensure closer collaboration with the nation.”
Rieder said BC Hydro is aware of the lawsuit.
“As this is a matter before the court, we cannot comment further on this matter,” she said.