Province Demands Say on First Nation Dam Proposal

Thursday, July 10, 2003 at 14:04




The provincial government and the chief of the James Smith First Nation appear to have a difference of opinion about who controls certain sections of the Saskatchewan River.


Chief Walter Constance says the community has been talking to a Quebec company about building a dam on the Saskatchewan River where it rests on reserve land.


Constance says the project could mean valuable jobs and resources for the reserve and could be done with a private partner.


He claims a recent court decision spelled out the fact any part of the Saskatchewan River-bottom that rests inside James Smith boundaries is solely the property of the community and the water that runs through it.


However, the provincial government maintains it would need to be consulted before a dam can be built. Nancy Cherney of the Saskatchewan Sustainable Land Management Branch says the province retains responsibility and ownership of the Saskatchewan River. She argues a number of environmental questions would have to be answered before construction could begin, and that falls under federal jurisdiction. She also points out inter-provincial agreements with Alberta and Manitoba would have to be considered and dealt with, as well.


Constance hasn’t stated he intends to go forward without the government’s position in any way, but he does plan to talk more with a Quebec-based company about the project next week.


SNC Lavelin is the company in question. They have stated the idea to construct a dam is only a good one if the right economics are in place for all parties. Company officials plan to present SaskPower with a pre-feasibility study of the project sometime in the next year-and-a-half.