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Splatsin First Nation speaks out against BC Hydro’s plan to decommission North Okanagan dam

Click to play video: 'Splatsin First Nation speaks out against BC Hydro’s plan to decommission North Okanagan dam' Splatsin First Nation speaks out against BC Hydro’s plan to decommission North Okanagan dam
BC Hydro's plan to decommission a historic North Okanagan dam is proving controversial. The purpose is to bring Salmon back to a historic spawning ground, but a local First Nation has an alternative vision for protecting fish stocks that would also allow for power generation. Now the Splatsin First Nation says the Crown corporation is moving ahead with the decommissioning without its consent – Sep 24, 2021

The Splatsin First Nation is speaking out against BC Hydro’s plan to decommission a historic North Okanagan dam, saying the utility is not living up to its obligations under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Splatsin chief, Kukpi7 Wayne Christian, said the Splatsin do not consent to the decommissioning of the Wilsey Dam near Lumby.

“We were actually in discussions with them and then they just went ahead and made the announcement,” said Christian.

“BC Hydro and the provincial government has to change their consultation and accommodation processes to fall in line to with the legislation of [Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act], and with the [UN] Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples for free, prior, and informed consent.”
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BC Hydro announced this week it is pursuing decommissioning the historic dam to give salmon access to return to spawning habitat upstream of Shuswap Falls and the dam.

Read more: Decades of fish passage advocacy leads to decommissioning of BC Hydro’s Wilsey Dam

“We’ve looked at refurbishing the Wilsey Dam and adding a fish channel, and another alternative we studied was decommissioning the facility,” said BC Hydro spokesperson Dag Sharman.

“Decommissioning the facility is what we determined to be the leading alternative. It’s an alternative that is more cost-effective. It’s the alternative that will have the greatest chance of getting salmon back up above Shuswap Falls.”

However, the Splatsin First Nation has a different vision for the site.

The First Nation said it offered to acquire the dam and “turn it into a run-of-the-river system to recover the salmon population and generate power and economic opportunities at the same time.”

“We see this area as an area we would like to re-settle and re-populate because we had people living there prior to all this taking place, in the early 1800s. So we would really like to get back there and a part of that would be the actual energy being provided,” Christian said.

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Fish blocked from upper Shuswap River – Sep 20, 2021

BC Hydro said the alternative proposed by the First Nation was “not financially feasible for BC Hydro or its ratepayers.”

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“We’ve worked with local Indigenous groups and others throughout this process and will continue to work with them through the process,” said Sharman.

“We are only at a stage in the decommissioning process. [Decommissioning] is our leading alternative now, but we’ve got a lot of work to do and we’ll continue to work with them.”

While BC Hydro continues to pursue decommissioning the dam, it’s not a done deal and there is a lengthy regulatory process ahead before decommissioning could take place.

In the meantime, talks between the Splatsin First Nation and Crown corporation are expected to continue.

Meanwhile, another Indigenous group, the Okanagan Indian Band, supports the decommissioning of the dam.

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