The Stage is Set

In the years following World War II, there was a drive to develop Canada, taking advantage of abundant natural resources. From the pioneering surveys done in the 1920s and 1930s, it was learned that a tremendous volume of water, locked in a series of lakes on the eastern side of BC's Coast Mountains, could be channeled and harnessed to produce an abundance of hydroelectric power, if redirected to the coast.

Frank Cyril Swannell, land surveyor, was first to map the lakes at the headwaters of the Nechako River, 1920 to 1923. By 1930, the BC Water Rights Branch was officially looking at its hydroelectric power potential. Frederick W. Knewstubb, principal engineer, launched the Nechako studies in 1931. He read Swannell's survey report and envisioned a dam on the Nechako River and the power possibilities for Tahtsa Lake. Under Stanley Frame, the survey team was to seek a route through the mountains for a tunnel, in order to divert water from Ootsa and surrounding lakes to the Coast. The Nechako River watershed - 5,450 square miles (14,114 sq. km) - drained the lakes of Tweedsmuir Park, BC's first provincial park, eastwards.

John Kendrick was a summer student on the Stanley Frame survey. He recalls:

" was a time when there [were] really no maps. There weren't even topographical maps of that part of British Columbia, so we had to climb a mountain and look where the rivers ran and figure out where we were, and start the surveys from there... "

Edward T. Kenney promoted the potential of the region. Howard Mitchell Sr. remembered, "I visited Terrace and had an opportunity to talk with E.T. Kenney, who was then a small realtor and insurance agent in a small office in Terrace. He showed me a sketch, a proforma, of a development of a huge power site on the coast below Terrace, and we spent some time discussing the possibilities of a diversion tunnel and the damming of a chain of lakes... This seemed to me to be quite visionary... "

Kenney later became the Minister of Lands and Forests, and was instrumental in realizing the Kitimat Project.

Original Kitimat Townsite in watercolour and mixed media, circa 1951.  It is reputed that Alcan President R.E. Powell had this framed artwork in his office in Montreal.