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In 1979, Alcan announced that they would use the rest of the water that the 1950 Agreement decreed the Company could use and they applied to the Utilities Commission for an Energy Project Certificate to start Kemano II. This declaration led to a legal skirmish between Alcan and Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) over the potentially hazardous water levels for the migrating salmon. The issue was resolved with the 1987 Settlement Agreement signed on September 14th between Alcan, the Government of British Columbia, and the Federal Government, which confirmed that the Company had the legal right to use more water from the Nechako River. However, Alcan agreed to give up water rights to the Nanika River and the Cheslatta River while setting up a program to keep an eye on the fish habitats. This agreement resulted in the Kemano Completion Project (KCP), which was a scaled down version of Kemano II. In 1989, a Collective Labour Agreement was signed between the Allied Hydro Council and the Kemano Completion Project Employers’ Association, signifying the launch of KCP.
The project had an initial estimated cost of $800 million and would increase Kemano’s power generating capabilities by 75 percent. It consisted of five components: building a cold water release facility at Kenney Dam to increase chances of survival for Chinook and sockeye salmon; dredging the Tahtsa narrows an increase water-flow through the Nechako Reservoir; installing four more generators in Kemano; building another 68 km transmission line between Kitimat and Kemano; and building an additional 16 km power tunnel parallel to the existing tunnel through Mount DuBose.
However, not all British Columbians were ecstatic about the KCP. Some of the major opponents to this project were environmentalists, the fishing industries, wildlife activists, and First Nations peoples such as the Haisla and Carrier-Sekani Tribal Council. Some of the environmental groups included “A River Forever” and “Rivers Defence Coalition”. An organization called “Save the Bulkley” was formed by residents from Smithers, Telkwa, and Quick areas to oppose the KCP.
On June 16th, 1992, Premier Mike Harcourt commissioned Murray Rankin and Arvay Finlay to create a report on the KCP, “Alcan’s Kemano Project: Options and Recommendations”. This report was completed in October of that year and recommended that the Government of British Columbia conducts a public review on the KCP. Thus, the British Columbia Utilities Commission public review of the KCP was initiated in January of 1993. That same year, Alcan told the provincial government that they were short of $350 million in their estimated cost for KCP and would need more power revenues. Two years later, on January 23rd, Premier Harcourt decided to cancel KCP.
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