Mike Robertson captured this aerial shot of the Cheslatta gravesite. This current flood has not exposed any human remains yet.

Mike Robertson captured this aerial shot of the Cheslatta gravesite. This current flood has not exposed any human remains yet.

Province addresses Cheslatta’s flooding

The province will support short-term watershed restoration projects.

In the story ‘Cheslatta Carrier Nation wants solution for flooding’ published in the Lakes District News’ June 24, edition, Cheslatta Carrier Nation Chief Corrina Leween expressed how devastating the yearly flooding of the Cheslatta Lake and River system has been.

The flooding has been an ongoing issue since 1952, and it has caused over 60 graves to be washed away. The remains are somewhere in the waters of Cheslatta Lake.

“Each year the members of our nation re-live that devastation of knowing their ancestors are somewhere out in the lake,” said Leween. “My grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts and uncles are amongst the graves that have been washed away.”

Cheslatta Carrier Nation has now reached a new agreement with the province to help address flooding impacts.

Through a memorandum of understanding (MOU), $400,000 is being provided to support the Cheslatta for short-term watershed restoration projects in their traditional territory.

Chief Leween expressed relief over the agreement.

“For decades we have proposed solutions to this and other outstanding issues and no one was willing to listen,” she said. “Finally, we have a government committed to formally work with us to design and implement creative options that will lead to an acceptable reconciliation and give us certainty moving forward. We can no longer tolerate the status quo.”

The MOU establishes guiding principles to support joint work toward reconciliation between the Cheslatta and the province, including economic and environmental interests related to the development of natural resources. Central to the agreement is consideration of options for the management of the Nechako reservoir and Cheslatta watershed to address flooding impacts to Cheslatta lands and cultural sites.

“We cannot change history, but we can work toward building a more positive future and find new opportunities that will provide significant social and economic benefits for the Cheslatta,” said John Rustad, Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation. “That is our goal and this MOU is an important step toward that goal.”

The annual flooding of the Cheslatta system is due to Nechako reservoir’s elevation management flows. Since the construction of the Kenney Dam in 1952, and the creation of the Nechako Reservoir, the Cheslatta Lake and River system has been utilized as a spillway channel, linking the reservoir with the Nechako River.