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North Coast First Nations split on Northwest Transmission Line

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Kitselas chief councillor Glenn Bennett is looking forward to the construction of the Northwest Transmission Line, saying it means jobs and business opportunities, but North Coast First Nations remain split on the project.

BC Hydro is dealing with 13 aboriginal groups who assert title along the transmission route. It is also dealing with the Nisga’a Lisims Government.

To date, only the Kitselas and the Metlakatla First Nations have signed impact benefits agreements.

They weren’t considered necessary for the transmission line to receive environmental approval from the provincial government but are regarded as beneficial when a development affects a First Nation’s asserted title over traditional territory.

But not every First Nation is satisfied with steps taken by BC Hydro as part of the environmental assessment into the transmission line.

“Lax Kw’alaams disagrees that the Crown’s duty to consult and accommodate with respect to this Project and its potential infringements to Lax Kw’alaams’ interests has been discharged,” reads a portion of a letter sent by Lax Kw’alaams to the provincial environmental assessment office.

It states, for example, that some of its traditional territory takes in territory also claimed by the Kitsumkalum and Kitselas.

BC Hydro, which will build the line, wants to start construction this spring leading to a late 2013 completion date.

The Kitselas were the first of the First Nations, over whose traditional territory the line will run, to sign an impacts benefit agreement with BC Hydro.

It provides for economic development benefits and training tied to the line.

Already, said Bennett, companies have been contacting the Kitselas hoping to work out joint ventures.

“There’s a meeting date set with a company that wants to set up a construction camp. They need one and we’re going to look at it and see what can be worked out,” said Bennett.

Kitselas residents have also had first aid, power tool and other training in preparation for right-of-way clearing work.

“We’re extremely pleased we’ve been able to come to an agreement as to how this line will have an impact with our traditional territory,” said Bennett.

“It’s a huge step forward for everyone,” he added

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