BC HYDRO is convinced it sent a work crew to a spot on Kitsumkalum traditional territory two weekends ago, which sparked an incident affecting progress on its Northwest Transmission Line.
The geo technical crew was drilling in the ongoing preparatory work leading to installation of pylons on the southern end of the 344km line west of Terrace, which will run from the crown corporation’s Skeena Substation south of Terrace to Bob Quinn on Hwy37 North.
But the crew packed up and left after members of the Lax Kw’alaams First Nation approached and said they were actually on its traditional territory and presented the crew with a statement to that effect.
“It is our understanding that the area is Kitsumkalum traditional territory,” a BC Hydro email stated Aug. 12.
That being the case, BC Hydro had Kitsumkalum cultural monitors on location.
But speaking the next day, Lax Kw’alaams chief councillor Garry Reece said there was no question the site was on Lax Kw’alaams traditional territory.
“Well I don’t know how they would be saying that when they’re supposed to know,” said Reece of BC Hydro’s belief it was on Kitsumkalum traditional territory and not on that of Lax Kw’alaams.
Reece said the important consideration is the failure so far of Lax Kw’alaams to negotiate a suitable impact benefits agreement with BC Hydro in return for running the line through its traditional territory.
The crown corporation, he said, has been offering “beads” instead of realistic economic proposals.
“They have to come to an agreement with us,” said Reece.
Negotiations in the spring were called off and a renewed round earlier this summer also ended without a deal.
BC Hydro has negotiated agreements with the Nisga’a Nation and four first nations but not with Lax Kw’alaams and the Kitsumkalum and one other first nation.
Reece said the deal offered in renewed negotiations was less than the first offer BC Hydro put on the table. BC Hydro won’t release details of what it negotiates but impact benefits agreements do contain cash and contracts directly awarded without first going to tender.
The Lax Kw’alaams say the power line will go through just over 25km of its traditional territory.
Maps submitted by BC Hydro as part of its environmental application to build the power line indicate that in the general area where the geo tech crew was working, the Lax Kw’alaams, the Kitsumkalum and another first nation, the Metlakatla, all have traditional territory.
The Kitsumkalum say the power line will go through 67.9 kilometres of their traditional territory and the Metlakatla say the line will go through 20.5 kilometres of their traditional territory.
The Metlakatla are one of the four first nations to have a benefits agreement with BC Hydro.
“We do have overlaps,” acknowledged Reece of traditional territories.
A chart prepared for BC Hydro lists the number of kilometres the power line will go through the traditional territories of seven affected first nations and the Nisga’a Nation.
When added up, the total works out to two-and-a-half times the length of the 344km line.
As of the weekend, BC Hydro has yet to contact Lax Kw’alaams.
But Reece did say there are attempts underway for the Lax Kw’alaams to meet with the Kitsumkalum and other interested parties this week.