Environmental Stewardship & Community Improvement 2018
Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation’s (TFN) traditional territory is located in the Clayoquot Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island (Tofino area). In 2018, TFN completed construction of the 4 MW Winchie Creek hydro power project. This is TFN’s third clean energy facility under the Standing Offer Program. The TFN is also the majority owner of the two 6 MW hydropower plants at Canoe Creek (COD in 2010) and Haa-ak-suuk Creek (COD 2014), and the Plant Operators are TFN members. TFN is working towards the development of four more clean energy small hydro projects in the Clayoquot Sound.
Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation’s three small hydro projects produce an average of 50 GWH/year, supplying much of the energy needed to meet the demands of the local communities of Ucluelet, Tofino and the Alberni Valley. The development of Nation’s clean energy projects has been overseen by TFN Tribal Parks, with a vision of sustainable development that has environmental stewardship as a priority. The facilities are located in the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, and are outstanding examples of sustainable economic development. All of the facilities’ diversion reaches are located upstream of fish bearing habitat. The footprint for each project has been kept as small as possible, leaving the forest intact with a goal to achieve a “park-like setting” post-construction.
The Winchie Creek hydropower facility was constructed to produce power, but also to provide other environmental and community benefits. Downstream of the facility where Winchie Creek meets Kennedy Lake is the location of the previously inaccessible (by vehicle or equipment) Winchie Reserve. “Winchie” in the Nuu-chah-nulth language means “where the fish go”. Historically, this area was highly productive salmon habitat that supported the Nations’ fishery.
A century of forest harvesting in the area ruined much of the fish habitat and salmon populations have plummeted. The decision to develop the clean energy project was made in part to develop access to this location to allow for the community to use the Reserve lands and also gain access to the Kennedy River side channel for the Nation to undertake salmon habitat restoration in the future, and to develop a fish hatchery as well. None of this would be possible without the development of Winchie Creek Hydro, which will also contribute financially to these environmental stewardship efforts.
TFN’s Tribal Parks and Fisheries are currently funding and leading the restoration of several historically highly productive salmon eco-systems throughout Clayoquot Sound. This work is extremely important to BC Coastal ecosystems, as salmon is a key species that is used by whales, wolves, bears, eagles and humans. Revenues from TFN’s clean energy facilities help to support these and other environmental stewardship initiatives that TFN has planned for their traditional territory. This holistic approach to sustainable economic development combined with environmental protection and habitat restoration is truly industry leading and should be recognized and applauded.
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