THE NISGA’A Lisims Government executive has signed a deal today with BC Hydro it says will bring jobs and business opportunities to Nisga’a people tied to the construction of the Northwest Transmission Line.
The deal, which will need to be approved by the Nisga’a legislature when it meets later this month, permits the construction of the line through a portion of the Nisga’a Lava Bed Memorial Park and core Nisga’a lands.
This route, called the “western route”, will cost less to build and be easier to maintain than another route, the “eastern route” which was also under consideration by BC Hydro had it not been able to strike a deal.
Nisga’a Lisims Government president Mitchell Stevens said he could not divulge financial terms of the deal but said it met the standards and obligations required under the Nisga’a land claims treaty which came into effect in 2000.
“There is also a process for continuing consultation,” said Stevens once the Northwest Transmission Line is constructed.
The line, which was given provincial environmental approval last week, will run approximately 340km from BC Hydro’s Skeena Substation just south of Terrace to Bob Quinn on Hwy37 North.
It’ll provide a connection to the provincial power grid for AltaGas which is starting work on one of three run of river hydro electric projects in the area and will provide power for at least one mine, the Red Chris copper property belonging to Imperial Metals, and possibly more.
Stevens said the line will provide economic opportunities for the entire area.
“This is infrastructure this geographic area really needs and we had to sit down, both parties, and agree to disagree and come to an agreement that is beneficial to everyone,” Stevens added.
“It is a business agreement and our region will benefit.”
But he did say negotiations were complicated, a factor he said was partially caused by “turmoil” brought on by changes in cabinet ministers in Victoria since talks began in 2007 on a route for the line through Nisga’a lands.
“We’ve been through five different negotiating teams from BC Hydro, two ministers of energy and mines and two ministers of aboriginal affairs and reconciliation and one premier,” he said.
The president also said there were time constraints motivating negotiators, including the delivery of $130 million from the federal government to help defray the $404 million cost of the line.
As well, a condition of the environmental approval from the province said construction through the western route could not take place unless BC Hydro could reach agreement with the Nisga’a.
A provision of the Nisga’a treaty would have permitted BC Hydro to obtain a right of way in return for providing adequate and fair compensation.
BC Hydro had started the process of obtaining that right of way but put those efforts on hold in favour of negotiating with the Nisga’a.
Stevens said the deal provides for both direct business arrangements with BC Hydro and with the companies BC Hydro will choose to design and construct the line.
Stevens added that this agreement is the first major economic development deal to be signed by the Nisga’a since their treaty came into effect in May 2000.
He said it should be regarded as a sign of things to come.
“There is only one thing that money doesn’t like and it is fear and uncertainty. Now everyone is aware of the rules and we are on a go forward basis for other developments in the region,” Stevens said.
“The opportunities are huge and we see many more coming in the years ahead.”
(This updated version of March 2, 2011 has an amended quote from Nisga’a Lisims Government president Mitchell Stevens that was contained in the March 1, 2011 posting.
The quote is, “We’ve been through five different negotiating teams from BC Hydro, two ministers of energy and mines and two ministers of aboriginal affairs and reconciliation and one premier.”)