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BC Hydro, First Nation reach agreement on Site C project

BC Hydro andPower Authority has signed an agreement with the Dene Tha' FirstNation as the province-owned utility forges ahead with its giant dam and generationproject on the Peace River.

The pact includes a one-time payment to the 2,400-memberDene Tha' nation and ongoing employment, procurement and trainingopportunities, BC Hydro said in a July 20 statement. Details of the cash payoutand other specifics were not provided. The Dene Tha' reside in threecommunities on the Alberta side of the Peace River, which flows through thenorthern part of both provinces.

"This agreement is a milestone in the relationshipbetween BC Hydro and Dene Tha'," Chief Joe Pastion said in the statement."We are striving to strengthen our relations with industry and FirstNations in our traditional territory. Dene Tha's treaty rights will continue tobe practiced by our current members and future generations."

SNL Image

A rendering of BC Hydro's Site C dam.

Source: BC Hydro

The Dene Tha' is part of the Treaty 8 First Nations, whichcovers groups in British Columbia, the Northwest Territories, Alberta and Saskatchewan.The nation is not a part of the Treaty 8 Tribal Association, a group of BritishColumbia First Nations, some of which are involved in a lawsuit that seeks tostop the Site C project.

With a price tag of C$8.34 billion, the 1,098-MW Site C projectis BC Hydro's most-expensive generating project. The 1,050 meter-long dam wouldflood 83 kilometers of the Peace River valley to power six 183-MW units.Opponents have saidthe project is unneeded and infringes on the rights of First Nations in theregion.

BC Hydro CEO Jessica McDonald said the Dene Tha' agreementis an important step in the development of the project, which was approved by afederal government panel in 2014. Site C is expected to be completed in 2024.

"We are committed to working hard to buildrelationships with Aboriginal groups and are grateful for this opportunity towork with the community of Dene Tha'," McDonald said in the statement.