tkwəɬniwt (Westbank), Syilx Territory: After decades of advocating, the Okanagan Nation Alliance commends BC Hydro’s important step towards decommissioning Wilsey Dam and the Shuswap Falls Powerhouse. BC Hydro will now move forward planning for the decommission and prepare an application to the BC Utilities Commission to obtain approval to cease operations at the facility. These actions are expected to be complete within the next 12 to 18 months.
“We have been working specifically towards fish passage at Wilsey Dam since the late 1990’s. This journey has been long with constant changes, circling around and morphing into what we are working with today. By decommissioning this dam we hope to see our social, cultural and food fishery flourish” Okanagan Indian Band Chief Byron Louis stated.
For the Syilx Nation, there is an important spiritual cultural and economic significance with restoring salmon and resident species above Wilsey Dam. Historically, our people would gather and work together to fish for salmon and trout from the river at the swʕawił (Shuswap Falls). Since 1929, when the Wilsey dam was created, salmon (chinook, coho, sockeye) and other resident species like bull and rainbow trout have been blocked from being able to perform their upstream migration. This blockage prevented them from accessing nearly 30 kilometers of spawning and rearing habitat on the Shuswap River.
“As Syilx people, we have an inherent right and responsibility to continue working to bring ntitiyx back to all parts of our territory, including that on the spəlm’cin (Shuswap River). Decommissioning Wilsey Dam would be a step in the right direction towards not only salmon recovery, but also ensuring that benefits for siwɬkʷ and the tmixʷ and all habitat” stated Chief Clarence Louie, ONA Tribal Chair.
“The ONA have been actively involved in habitat restoration and multispecies stock assessment throughout the Shuswap River system for years. Through our continued involvement on the Wilsey Fish Passage Committee we have also been part of technical and environmental feasibility studies that lay the groundwork for bringing the system back to it’s original state “ Shayla Lawrence, ONA biologist, also confirmed.
The Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA) was formed in 1981 as the inaugural First Nations government in the Okanagan, which represents the 8 member communities of the Okanagan Nation.
For information please contact:
ki law na, Chief Clarence Louie, ONA Tribal Chair
Howie Wright, ONA Fisheries Manager