VANCOUVER, B.C. (CN) - Two native Indian bands claim aluminum producer Rio Tinto Alcan hurt their tribes' "culture, sustenance and fisheries resources" by diverting water from British Columbia's Nechako River since 1952, and that the diversion could drive the Nechako River sturgeon "toward extinction."
The Saik'uz First Nation and the Stellat'en First Nation sued Rio Tinto Alcan in B.C. Supreme Court.
The Native Americans claim that Rio Tinto's Kenney Dam operation has damaged lands that have been a "key source of the plaintiffs' culture, sustenance and fisheries resources."
"Alcan's diversion of water has dramatically altered the amount, timing and quality of water flowing into the Nechako River," the complaint states. "This has adversely impacted and continues to cause damage to the rights and interests of the plaintiffs in their property and territories, including the lands, waters and fisheries within them."
Alcan runs an aluminum smelter and industrial facility in Kitimat, B.C. Its Kenney Dam diverts water into a reservoir to produce hydroelectric power.
The tribes say the water diversion caused the river banks to erode and caused unnatural sedimentation and flooding in surrounding areas. In addition, the diversion has had "significant adverse impacts" on fish species and has led to the "gradual progress toward extinction of the Nechako River Sturgeon as a species," according to the complaint.
The tribes add that Alcan has refused to stop the diversion and failed to implement new practices to stop the nuisance.
The tribes seek a permanent injunction to restrain Rio Tinto's Kenney Dam operations.
They are represented by Gregory J. McDade with Ratcliff & Co., of North Vancouver.
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