As the Nechako Environmental Enhancement Fund Management Committee (NEEF MC) we met with many people in the Nechako Watershed region during the past month to discuss our work. Through those meetings it came to our attention that there is a need for us to clarify details about the fund and the context in which we as a committee are proceeding.
As part of an agreement between the Province and Alcan (BC/Alcan 1997 Agreement) Rio Tinto Alcan will contribute up to $50 million to the Nechako Environmental Enhancement Fund (NEEF) on a matching dollar basis and therefore the fund has a potential of $100 million. As stipulated in the agreement a Management Committee (NEEF MC) was given the mandate to decide how these funds should be used and determine how the decisions should be implemented.
In 2001 the original NEEF MC decided the funds should be used to build a cold water release facility at Kenney Dam at a cost of approximately $96 million. It also identified outstanding issues related to that decision. Over a period of almost ten years the Nechako Watershed Council directed a work plan towards understanding those outstanding issues. Their work revealed that a cold water release facility at Kenney Dam would not provide the same suite of benefits as originally anticipated and that a surface water release facility would be of equal utility. In addition, preliminary engineering level estimates revealed that the cost for a surface water release facility would in fact be at least $260 million (2009 dollars).
In light of the new information the Province and Rio Tinto Alcan asked the NEEF Management Committee to convene and reconsider its previous decisions for use of the fund. We were appointed to the management committee and began our work in November 2011.
While we have accepted this task at the request of the two parties to the 1997 Agreement, the mandate and authority of the committee is stipulated in the agreement itself. As such the NEEF MC mandate is not restricted by the specific interests of any party nor any previous decisions, recommendations or opinions.
As members of the NEEF MC it is our distinct honour to be tasked with the responsibility of deciding the best use of the fund. We are a committee of three: Pieter Bekker appointed by the Province of BC, Justus Benckhuysen appointed by Rio Tinto Alcan and Byron Nutton appointed by Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Our work follows in the footsteps of the work done by the original NEEF MC in 2001 and a large volume of additional work done by many others since that time.
With this in mind we examined the original NEEF MC decision in 2001 and all the information now available to us regarding construction of a water release facility at Kenney Dam. It is clear to us that a water release facility is the only way to fully rehabilitate the Cheslatta watershed, it would also create fish habitat between Kenney Dam and Cheslatta Falls. However, we now know the cost is far in excess of what was envisioned for the fund and perhaps more importantly, no party has been identified to invest the more than $250 million required for this project.
Also included in this bulletin: Consultation Process, Amount of the Fund, Geographic Scope and Intent of the Fund, Your Participation.
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