While the results are significant, the road getting here was long and challenging. In the late 1960s BC Hydro cleared a right-of-way and built two high voltage transmission lines and substations in Okanagan and Nlaka’pamux Territory to supply the lower mainland with electricity from hydro-electric dams on the Columbia River without adequately consulting, involving or accommodating the First Nations. At the time, BC Hydro anticipated adding an additional third transmission line at a later date. That date came, and the new 500 kV transmission line – the Interior to Lower Mainland Line (ILM) which goes from Merritt to Coquitlam – was planned by BC Hydro in 2005 and scheduled to be built by 2013. Upper Nicola and ONA, collaboratively with the NNTC, worked consistently, diligently, and strategically to ensure that our Title and Rights were respected regarding the proposed new line. After multiple judicial proceedings, and intense negotiations over many years, agreements were achieved with BC Hydro in the fall of 2011.
Upper Nicola, ONA, and NNTC decided in 2007 to stand united to ensure meaningful engagement, and to defend and protect Title and Rights. A major turning point was when the British Columbia Court of Appeal agreed with Upper Nicola, ONA, and NNTC that meaningful consultation and accommodation had not occurred with respect to one of the major permits for the project. This helped lead to multiple years of negotiations to try to find a collaborative outcome. Early in 2011 the leadership of Upper Nicola, ONA, and NNTC met with the Chair and CEO of BC Hydro to discuss making a last push towards a negotiated settlement. This led to a final round of negotiations that resulted in the settlement agreement. Throughout the four plus years of litigation and negotiations that led to the agreement, Upper Nicola was designated by the CEC as the collective lead with the on-going and technical support of the ONA, and legal assistance from Mandell Pinder. Chief Dan Manuel was appointed the lead negotiator throughout the process, with senior technical and negotiations support from Jay Johnson (ONA) and legal counsel. The Nation stood firm and consistent, with all Member Communities supporting this collective effort to protect and defend our Title and Rights. While many more challenges remain in addressing BC Hydro’s expansive infrastructure, operations and impacts on the Okanagan Territory, the Enduring Relationship is one unique and dedicated touchstone that may help the Nation pave the way toward preferential resolution of these many issues.