While job creation and economic development are important factors in Tla’amin Nation’s proposed hydroelectric project on Sliammon Lake, a more pressing issue is solving the first nation’s water troubles, said hegus Clint Williams.
BC Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation announced Tuesday, December 6, that Tla’amin had received $40,000 from the provincial government’s BC First Nations Clean Energy Business Fund to conduct a full feasibility study for a potential three-megawatt run-of-river project. The funding will help pay for the study of fish habitat in the project area and carry out geotechnical, archaeological and water-quality assessments.
Williams said the project has been in the works for the past two years and it will help solve a number of water-related issues facing Tla’amin. He said if the study shows the project is feasible, the dam could be completed in the next three to five years.
“We know how important water is to everybody, so we’re really hoping this is going to be a positive project that increases our water supply and also helps the salmon, a valuable resource we depend on and cherish,” said Williams.
Aboriginal relations minister John Rustad stated in the announcement that this project, moving forward, showed the capability of the first nation to direct its own course.
“This proposed hydro project is a demonstration of their drive and focus to create a strong economic and environmentally responsible base for their community,” stated Rustad.
According to the ministry, the clean-energy business fund provides equity funding of up to $500,000 and capacity to develop funding of up to $50,000 to support first nations with feasibility studies or engagement with private sector proponents of clean-energy projects.
Williams said the first nation is following all the provincial requirements necessary in establishing a run-of-the-river power project.
“Right now, our vision is to sell power into the grid, but if that fails, then maybe we just look at doing a Tla’amin community power project,” he said.
Teeshoshum, formerly known as Sliammon Reservation Number 1, receives its water supply through a water main system connected to a small weir-type dam on Sliammon Lake, built by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) more than 30 years ago.
Recently, particularly during dry summers, the community has faced water shortages. With the treaty implementation last April, the federal department wanted to “reduce its liability” with the aging infrastructure and was going to remove it, said Williams.
Since the first nation would have to replace the dam, the thought was to increase its size slightly to hold more water in the lake, install a turbine to generate power and fix the water mains that supply the community’s water-treatment plant, he said.
Selling the power is not the principle reason for the development, he said.
“We thought we could accomplish a number of things for our people,” he said. “In the summer the creek turns into a trickle pretty quick.”
Sliammon Creek flows from Sliammon Lake. Rebuilding the dam would allow the first nation to better regulate the amount of water in the creek, helping spawning salmon return to lay their eggs. Williams said that would allow for untreated water to be used at the hatchery as well.