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Native group challenges Kemano licence

A northern British Columbia native group, the Cheslatta-Carrier Nation, has filed action in Canadian courts challenging all licences issued to Aluminium producer Alcan in 1950. The licences were issued for the construction of the Kemano hydroelectric project.

In the 1950s Alcan used half the water right granted by the licences to build the 93m high Kenney dam on a tributary of the Nechako river, and developed 896MW of electricity at the Kemano powerhouse. The reservoir covered an area of 92,000ha and flooded the Cheslatta-Carrier land. Since then the group members have been living in scattered parcels of land about 250km west of Point George in northeastern British Columbia.

Although Canada’s federal government paid the native group to acquire the land for the project, the native leaders say they were railroaded into the agreement, without legal advice or talks. In 1993 during the height of the Kemano Completion Project controversy (the now cancelled Kemano Stage II project) the federal government paid the Chelsatta over C$7M to address some of the native group’s concerns.

The band is seeking a court order requesting the defendants to repair the damage inflicted on the Nechako river by the releases from the hydro station.