Canadian utility BC Hydro and the McLeod Lake Indian Band have forged an agreement that will give the aboriginal group "economic development opportunities and other benefits" related to the construction and operation of the Site C hydroelectric project.
The deal was endorsed by a vote of McLeod Lake members and include an impact benefits agreement, a contracting agreement and a tripartite lands agreement that also includes the British Columbia government.
Terms of the document include a lump sum payment of an unspecified amount, a revenue stream lasting more than 70 years, procurement opportunities for McLeod Lake companies, a transfer of provincial Crown lands to the Indian band, and a "commitment to consider land management initiatives involving McLeod Lake respecting certain lands."
"We want to express our sincere gratitude to the McLeod Lake Indian Band for the opportunity to work together on a path forward," BC Hydro President and CEO Jessica McDonald said. "These agreements reflect our deep respect and genuine commitment to a meaningful long-term relationship. As we move forward together, we will continue to listen and explore opportunities for mutual benefit and reconciliation."
The McLeod Lake Indian Band was one of four First Nations groups that filed a lawsuit against the 1,100-MW Site C hydropower plant in November 2014, saying that approvals for the project violated constitutional rights granted by a century-old agreement called Treaty No. 8.
"We set out to negotiate agreements with BC Hydro and the province that recognize and address the adverse effects of Site C on our aboriginal and treaty rights," McLeod Lake Chief Derek Orr said this week. "The agreements were put forward to our members and supported in a referendum vote. We hope these agreements indicate the start of a long-term relationship based on trust and respect."
Site C, to be located on the Peace River, is intended to help the province meet what BC Hydro said will be a 40% increase in power demand over the next two decades.
HydroWorld.com reported in April that BC Hydro had selected Voith Hydro to design, supply and install hydromechanical equipment for the project.
Main civil works on the project began in June.
Site C will be the third hydroelectric project on the Peace River, joining 2,730-MW G.M. Shrum and 694-MW Peace Canyon. The site was chosen for potential development in 1976.