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IPP boom's impact on Douglas First Nation

Chief and band manager speak at Pemberton chamber luncheon about their eight run-of-river projects

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"The environmental assessment process was a huge undertaking in addressing all the heritage and environmental leads of our area," Harris said.

The community was not on the BC Hydro grid until 2010, so connection was important to Douglas Nation negotiators, though Harris jokingly grumbled about now receiving hydro bills. The site from where diesel generators used to provide the community's electricity is now a children's playground, he added.

"And the salmon was one of our key factors with developers. We recognized that although the logging was a part of our history and a part of our livelihood, the logging in the past took the salmon out of our creeks," Harris said.

"We don't necessarily blame them for it, the process and the guidelines didn't take into consideration the protection of the fish and the wildlife of the day."

Negotiations led to 200-metre long fish channels being built, which the chief said are now active with fish life that returned on their own accord, without being brought in artificially.

Training and employment was another attraction for the Douglas Nation, Harris said, as was establishing subcontracting partnerships.

"We had a number of band members trained in heavy-duty equipment, others learned different trades. We worked the camps, electricians, mechanics... We also started establishing work ethics for the youth and creating projects, including tree planting," he said.

"Our members were not used to having work there, so there was no ethics, work habits, so we started establishing that through the youth in as many projects as we could."

While Harris explained past impacts on the community, Leo talked about future plans.

Leo said the Douglas Nation was building homes for five more families at Tipella, in the hope of increasing the number of band members returning to the community. An administration building has also been built.

Economic development for the band means transitioning into tourism over the next five years. Interestingly, the first Chinese-Canadian child was born at Port Douglas, which is now virtually a ghost town on the shores of Harrison Lake, and the Chinese-Canadian Historical Society is interested in possibly rebuilding the townfront as an attraction. The region's goldrush history is another potential draw.

"We needed to engage and negotiate for as many long-term benefits to the community as possible," Leo told chamber members.

"Our main issue today is resettlement. We have a strategy, now that we are hooked up to the hydro grid. We couldn't build more houses because the diesel generators wouldn't allow for that... We've worked really hard in the last two years in restructuring our organization and reutilizing the own-source revenues that Douglas has coming in, in order to build capacity in governance and administration."

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