Yukon First Nations get a bigger say in management of Aishihik generating station

·2 min read
Champagne and Aishihik First Nations Chief Steve Smith said agreements signed by the First Nations last week with the Yukon goverment and Yukon Energy provide a financial benefit for the CAFN and give it a greater say in how the Aishihik hydro generating station operates. (Mike Rudyk/CBC - image credit)
Champagne and Aishihik First Nations Chief Steve Smith said agreements signed by the First Nations last week with the Yukon goverment and Yukon Energy provide a financial benefit for the CAFN and give it a greater say in how the Aishihik hydro generating station operates. (Mike Rudyk/CBC - image credit)

New joint agreements spell out the future for the Aishihik generating station and give the First Nations on whose traditional territory it sits a greater say in how it's managed.

The Champagne and Aishihik First Nations (CAFN) signed the series of agreements, which include the operation of the generating station but also broader issues including the environmental and cultural management of the Aishihik area, at its general assembly last week.

The agreement on the operation of the generating station was signed by CAFN, the Yukon government and Yukon Energy while the other agreements were signed by the territorial and First Nations governments.

CAFN Chief Steve Smith said the trilateral agreement includes financial benefits for the First Nations.

"There's also really, really strong co-management aspects to this agreement that just enable Champagne citizens to be able to have, you know, a greater say in the running of the Aishihik generating station," he said.

Philippe Morin/CBC
Philippe Morin/CBC

The hydro plant was built 50 years ago on Aishihik Lake near Haines Junction, about 110 kilometres northwest of Whitehorse. It can provide up to 37 megawatts of power.

The station is critical, according to Yukon Energy CEO Andrew Hill, for the Yukon to address climate change and meet the energy needs of the territory's growing population.

He said the agreements create a long term process by which the utility, the territorial government and the CAFN can work together.

"It really shows the way Yukon energy can collaborate with government and the First Nation … in a tri-party type manner. And I'm not aware of us doing that before," said Hall.

Smith agreed and said the agreements are a good first step in the co-management of the dam.

"But the proof will be in the pudding, so to speak, over the next couple of years," he said, adding that he'll be interested to see how the initial challenges between the First Nations, the utility and the government are handled.

"That will really signify how far we've been able to go with this agreement," said Smith.

The First Nations have said for a long time that the construction of the dam caused significant disruption to their traditional way of life, and left lasting impacts on fish and wildlife.

Smith said that in the past 50 years some fishing habitat has been lost, and trapping and wetlands areas have dried out, affecting moose, caribou and other game.

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