Project consults First Nations

The Columbia Power Corporation is ensuring groups like women in non-traditional jobs, visible minorities and First Nations are reaping the benefits of the $900-million Waneta expansion project.

The Columbia Power Corporation is ensuring groups like women in non-traditional jobs, visible minorities and First Nations are reaping the benefits of the $900-million Waneta expansion project.

“We do believe in active consultation. We’ve always consulted with stakeholders and communities impacted by our projects,” said spokesperson Audrey Repin, noting the goal of hiring at least 16 per cent of its employees from equity groups.

“As project manager, we are also obligated to consult with these stakeholders on environmental and safety concerns, and a key group is First Nations,” she said.

Giving a voice to her people, Rosemary Phillips from the Ktunaxa Nation Council sits on the project’s community impact management committee, which meets regularly.

“It’s very important to establish employment opportunities to help us develop our economy and our workforce and to be involved in what’s going on in our territory,” said Phillips from her office in Cranbrook.

There are currently three Ktunaxa members working on the Waneta site, just one of the inclusive opportunities for the nation, whose territory includes the land adjacent to the Kootenay and Columbia rivers and the Arrow Lakes.

For three years, Phillips has worked as the education and workforce strategic initiative coordinator for the Ktunaxa.

“It’s my role to develop our workforce and to work with industry from the economic point of view,” she said.

The total population of the Ktunaxa Nation in Canada is about 1,500 people. There are four Ktunaxa communities within the territory – Lower Kootenay Indian Band, Tobacco Plains Indian Band, St. Mary’s Indian Band and Akisqnuk First Nation – although large portions of Ktunaxa citizens also live off the reserve.

“There is archaeological evidence and oral history that we’ve been here for more than 11,000 years,” said Phillips. “This is really our home and it will be for years to come.”

CPC respects this entitlement and has for a number of years, working closely with the Ktunaxa and other First Nations on both the Arrow Lakes generating station and the Brilliant expansion project. There were 60 First Nations working on the Brilliant Expansion Project and 80 on the Arrow Lakes Generating Station.

The Waneta Expansion – a joint investment of Columbia Basin Trust, Fortis Inc. and the Columbia Power Corporation – will inject $178 million into the local economy through the purchase of goods and services, and supply 400 jobs and $200 million in wages and benefits over the course of nearly five years.

Construction is underway with crews removing soil and other material layered over bedrock in anticipation of blasting for the new powerhouse.

The prime contractor, SNC-Lavalin Inc., has spent the past four months preparing the powerhouse site for construction, removing existing infrastructure to make way for the new addition and installing new security fencing to separate the construction from the existing Waneta Dam.

Information on job opportunities can be found at www.columbiapower.org under “projects.”