Lillooet First Nation Blockade Construction in Defense of Cayoose Creek

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from West Coast Native News

Members of a First Nation in Lillooet have set up a blockade near that Fraser River district to protest work they believe is destroying fish habitat on disputed land.

Sekw’el’was Chief Michelle Edwards says the blockade on Cayoose Creek, at the mouth of the Seton River, on Lillooet’s southern outskirts, began at 7 a.m. Friday.

There’s no indication when it could be removed, but Edwards says traffic on nearby Highway 99 is not affected and members are only halting hired contractors at the work site.

She says the District of Lillooet has fast-tracked construction of a water intake on land claimed by the Sekw’el’was, although it knows the project will be appealed to the provincial Environmental Appeal Board.

Edwards says damage is not yet irreversible, but warns the work has the potential to wipe out spawning beds and incubating eggs in a section of Cayoose Creek used by coho, steelhead, chinook, pink, sockeye and bull trout.

She says many First Nations along the Seton and Fraser rivers rely on those salmon runs and, as caretakers of the watershed, the Sekw’el’was must protect the fish.

There is a long standing dispute between Sekw’el’was and the District of Lillooet over the ownership of the lands on which the District has located the water intake. The water intake is located on Cayoose Creek historical reserve lands currently under dispute. Despite our numerous attempts to seek adequate consultation, the District of Lillooet is proceeding with their controversial water upgrade. This upgrade encroaches on Cayoose Creek Reserve lands, allows heavy equipment to enter into Cayoose Creek which raises numerous fisheries and habitat issues. These include:

  • • Incubating eggs are being smothered by construction infrastructure.
  • • This section of the river is vital to Coho, Steelhead, Chinook, Pink, Sockeye, and Bull trout, for spawning, resting, and fry-rearing.
  • • Adverse impacts to salmon directly translate into negative impacts on bear (already threatened), eagles, owls, Blue Heron, and the shade trees that keep the water cool.

Sekw’el’was, together with other St’at’imc communities, are caretakers of the watershed and we take seriously our responsibilities to its governance and conservation. The watershed is important salmon habitat for Coho, chinook, sockeye, and pinks. It is also home to steelhead and trout. This section of Cayoose Creek is only seven kilometres long and is already impacted by four hydro-dams. We are at the tipping point with the health of this river and the life it sustains – wildlife, plants, soil, air and humans.

More to come..

 

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