Innovative deal sees First Nation gain stake in hydro project

By Jonny Wakefield

March 3, 2016

An independent power producer and a B.C. Indian band have formed an innovative partnership to acquire a run-of-river hydroelectric project.

On Feb. 25, Quebec-based Innergex Renewable Energy Inc. and the Cayoose Creek Indian band announced the formal acquisition of the Walden North hydroelectric facility from Fortis BC.

Located near Lillooet on Cayoosh Creek in the Bridge River system, the relatively small hydro project began generating around 16 megawatts of power when it was completed in 1992. For comparison, the proposed Site C dam on the Peace River is rated at 1,100 megawatts.

According to Fortis, the previous owner, the Walden facility sells the entirety of its power to the BC Hydro grid, which the new joint ownership group plans to continue doing through an existing agreement with the utility.  

The $9.2-million partnership between the renewable power firm and the band of 200 was initially made public in December 2015. The Cayoose Creek Development Corp. will hold a 49 per cent stake, while Innergex will own the balance.

In December, Cayoose Creek (also known as Sekw’el’was) Chief Michelle Edwards said the project would create economic opportunities for band members. The project is expected to generate annual revenues of $2.2 million.

“We are excited to have created a solid partnership to accompany us in this project,” she told the Bridge River Lillooet News. “The acquisition of Walden North is part of our overall growth strategy and economic vision for Sekw’el’was and presents a wealth of opportunities for our members and the local community.”  

The band’s traditional way of life was disrupted by a rash of dam building by BC Hydro during the mid-20th century, which strangled local salmon runs. In 2011, area bands at long last won a $200 million compensation agreement, which included $5 million for Sekw’el’was.

“There was a huge impact, not only for our way of life but what it provided to the wildlife, what it provided as nutrients to the rivers,” Edwards told Business in Vancouver. “These dams did a lot of damage.”

Innergex CEO Michel Letellier said partnerships with First Nations are a major part of his company’s business model.

“We look forward to a fruitful relationship with this new partner,” he told the Lillooet News.

Innergex already operates 28 hydroelectric facilities, as well as wind farms and solar arrays in Quebec, British Columbia and Idaho.

In all, the company holds around 3,330 megawatts worth of assets.




Photo Credit: Colin McMechan