First Nations partnership is a significant focus of Next Generation Hydro. Information will be shared with First Nations throughout this first phase of Next Generation Hydro to explain Yukon’s energy situation and how hydro, other renewables and transmission projects might fit into future economic growth scenarios. Where a potential medium to large hydroelectric project exists in a First Nation traditional territory, the directly affected First Nation will be more formally engaged. YDC will work with all interested First Nations to develop a mutually agreeable engagement protocol. Engagement could include meetings with the Elder Council, Chief and Council, citizens, agencies and government officials.
Common Law considerations now in effect have established that the Crown should begin to engage or begin consultation as soon as possible for a possible project to ensure Treaty, Aboriginal and Settlement Rights are addressed and the affected First Nation can later be accommodated accordingly. Accommodation between the proponent and the First Nation government is usually described in an Impact Benefit Agreement (IBA). These agreements discuss issues related to harvesting rights, traditional activities and heritage sites, training and employment. A separate process is usually set up, often with the First Nation development corporation, to discuss and negotiate investment or business partnerships.
In addition to Common Law, Yukon also operates according to First Nation Final Agreements. For the First Nations who have a final agreement, Chapter 22 (Schedule A) indicates that a First Nation may participate with the proponent (Yukon government, or agency or corporation of Yukon government – like YDC) in economic opportunities including, but not limited to, joint ventures, partnerships and equity participation in subsidiary corporations. Each individual land claim agreement indicates, in more specific detail, how each First Nation might invest in power projects. For instance, the Na-cho Nyak Dun (ND) Final Agreement Strategic Investments section states that the First Nation can acquire up to 25% of the interest of the Proponent’s (YDC’s) share of the project.
YDC and First Nations have entered into investment agreements for a number of Yukon Energy projects. In 2000, Yukon Energy initiated the Mayo to Dawson City transmission line project, which was completed in 2003. The project crossed through two Yukon First Nation Traditional Territories (those of Na-cho Nyak Dun and Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in). Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation participated as project investor. In 2008, Yukon Energy began work on Mayo B, an addition to an existing hydro facility, within the Na-cho Nyak Dun Traditional Territory. The project was completed in 2011 and it included an investment by Na-cho Nyak Dun First Nation.
In terms of hydroelectric sites, the Umbrella Final Agreement allows for 10 sites to be noted. As not all the Yukon First Nations have settled land claims, 6 of 10 sites have been designated as protected by notation: Teslin (Morley River), Champagne Aishihik (Aishihik, Long Lake, Hutshi Creek and Gladstone), Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in (North Fork), Selkirk (Granite Canyon), Na-cho Nyak Dun (Hess River) and Kluane (Gladstone Lake). In Kaska Traditional Territory, a number of other possible sites exist and are discussed in the Large Hydro Study. A number of First Nations are also pursuing their own interests in energy including Liard First Nation (LFN). Together with the Town of Watson Lake and ATCO Electric Yukon, LFN recently released a report looking at hydroelectric opportunities in South East Yukon.
In 2011, Yukon Energy, Yukon Indian Development Corporation Ltd. and the Council of Yukon First Nations organized and held the Yukon First Nation Energy Forum. At the Forum the groundwork was laid, to forge a common understanding and collaborative path forward between First Nations and Yukon Energy with regards to short and long term electrical needs. Collaboration was recognized, as the way to learn and build common knowledge with regards to future electrical needs facing Yukon. As part of Next Generation Hydro, a second Yukon First Nations Energy Forum will be held in the spring of 2015. Learn more about this event and other opportunities at Get Involved.