Kwakiutl Creek Upper and Lower Dams

Bella Bella, British Columbia, Canada

Project Details

Construction Type:

Engineering and Environmental Management Services

Project Type:


Integrating First Nation Knowledge in Remote Construction Projects

The remote community of Bella Bella is located on Campbell Island on the central coast of British Columbia. Bella Bella is in the traditional territory of the Heiltsuk First Nation, an area that encompasses approximately 35,553 square kilometres, and is home to over 2,400 people.

The construction industry is a transient business that can have both positive and negative effects on the communities they operate in. Working in remote communities means engaging and considering the needs of the community to reduce potential impacts. For First Nation communities, knowledge transfer of skills and experience are important issues that must be integrated early into a project. Understanding the value of engagement with First Nation communities and the integration of First Nations knowledge and skills into construction projects was crucial to project success in Bella Bella.

In 2014, Klohn Crippen Berger (KCB) was appointed by the Heiltsuk Tribal Council (HTC), Aboriginal Affairs, and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) to provide engineering and environmental management support on the Upper and Lower Kwakiutl Creek Dams. The dams were constructed between 1969 and 1975 and provide the only water supply storage for the community of Bella Bella.

KCB completed inspection and implemented emergency repairs to the Kwakiutl Dams in July 2014. Further assessments of the dams led to a recommendation by KCB to replace the Upper Dam, with a new Roller Compacted Concrete dam, and raise and strengthen the Lower Dam as well as widen the auxiliary spillway. Final construction of the dams was completed in 2017.

Together with members of the HTC, KCB developed a construction management system to promote continual knowledge transfer and involvement with community members. The input and feedback gathered during each step benefited the project outcome, and provided opportunities to plan and enhance capacity-building programs for the community after the project ended.