Sacrificing Fish for Power: A Legal History of the Spray Lakes Development


  • Sarah Nykolaishen Student-at-Law, Alberta Court of Appeal
  • Nigel Bankes Professor of Law, University of Calgary



This article tells the story of how Calgary Power acquired a legal licence to divert and store water in the Spray Lakes Reservoir, how multiple legal instruments, including the National Parks Act, Alberta’s Water Resources Act, and the Natural Resources Transfer Agreement were shaped along the way, as well as details the subsequent efforts that have been made to restore stream flows to the Spray River and rehabilitate its native cutthroat trout population. This article highlights many of the challenges that older hydro-developments pose to aquatic ecosystem health and instream flow needs, while demonstrating that the law can be shaped in interesting ways through the dual pressure of economic growth and environmentalism. This story offers food for thought as Canadian environmental legislation appears poised to undergo significant change.





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