Archive forOctober, 2010

No Dam on the Slave River

This article can be found on the Slave River Journal website.  This is fantastic news!
By SHAWN BELL, SRJ Reporter – Fri, Oct 15, 2010

The Slave River hydro project is dead.
That was the official word from a stark meeting room at the Smith’s Landing First Nation band office where Chief Cheyeanne Paulette, elder Francois Paulette, ATCO vice president of hydro development Doug Tenney and TransCanada representative Gavin Embury met to announce that the two sides have not reached an agreement on the Slave hydro project and never will.

“The Slave River has sustained our people since time immemorial,” Cheyeanne Paulette said. “We have a vision for the river that ensures it will continue to be a home for our people for all time, and we know many other Northerners share our vision.”

For Paulette, the 29-year-old chief first elected in June 2010, the decision to say no to the dam marks a bold start to his tenure at the head of Smith’s Landing.

The fact that he was joined at the table by his uncle, former chief Francois Paulette, one of the most influential Dene chiefs and a man who has long opposed the idea of a dam on the Slave River says much about the young chief’s influences and beliefs.

Chief Paulette was steadfast after the announcement, reiterating that there are no options for hydro-electricity projects on the Slave River.

“There was an overall direction from members that ultimately they did not want to see any hydro project on the Slave River,” Paulette said. “There was no sense in entering into feasibility studies if there was not going to be a project.”

Tenney expressed his company’s disappointment at Smith’s Landing’s decision, but said ATCO and TransCanada will respect the decision and leave the Slave River alone.

“Any economic configuration of hydro-electric generation would likely flood a portion of Smith’s Landing First Nation reserve land,” Tenney read from a prepared statement. “Smith’s Landing First Nation has determined that their vision for the Slave River is not compatible with large scale hydro development. ATCO and TransCanada understand and respect the legal and constitutional rights of Smith’s Landing First Nation and accept the decision made by Smith’s Landing First Nation.”

The Slave River hydro project has been in the works since the late 1970s. In the early 1980s the project boiled to a head, splitting the people of Fort Smith in their support or opposition to the dam.

The project at that time was eventually stopped by economic considerations, as the cost of building a transmission line from the 60th parallel to Fort Saskatchewan to connect to the provincial grid proved too expensive.

In 2006 the idea gained traction again, as ATCO and TransCanada teamed up to examine the possibility of creating what they called a “green energy corridor” of hydro-electric projects on the Athabasca, Slave and Mackenzie Rivers all the way to the Arctic Ocean with a plan to build a transmission line system to the south.

Feasibility studies for the Slave River Hydro Project were supposed to get underway in the fall of 2008, but were later pulled due to the lack of agreement with SLFN.

Since then the proponents have been back and forth to Fort Smith, meeting with local leaders to try and hammer out an agreement on feasibility studies.

Those efforts will now cease, as Tenney assured The Journal there are no alternatives for hydro power on the Slave River that would be both economical and not affect Smith’s Landing First Nation reserve land.

Both sides maintained that there was a mutual respect despite the lack of agreement.
“We’ve spent a number of years negotiating, so we’re disappointed in that sense,” Tenney said. “But we’ve talked all the time about needing a true partnership.

Ultimately you need relationships to build partnerships, and we believe we formed those relationships with Smith’s Landing and others in Fort Smith, despite not going ahead with the project.”