The first seeds of what would eventually become the Nechako Reservoir were sowed by a British Columbia Provincial Water Rights Branch survey of hydroelectric generating opportunities presented by the vast network of lakes and rivers in the north central interior of the province in the late 1920s.
Work commenced in the early 1950’s and the Nechako Reservoir was formed by the construction of the Kenney Dam on the Nechako River and nine smaller dams which inundated a chain of lakes and rivers. The Nechako Reservoir finished filling in 1957, and is 233 kilometres long, with a water surface of 910 square kilometres.
In 1987, Rio Tinto and the BC and Federal governments signed an agreement establishing the Nechako Fisheries Conservation Program (NFCP), which defines river flow and temperature levels. This remains a key operational document today.
Ten years later in 1997, the Province of BC granted Rio Tinto a Final Water License which stipulates maximum water diversion rate from the reservoir to Kemano, total storage, and confirmed the water allocation requirements from the Nechako Reservoir to the Nechako River. As part of this agreement, the Government of B.C. and Rio Tinto each contributed $7.5 million to establish the Northern Development Fund, which supports the Nechako-Kitamaat Development Fund (NKDF) grants program. Funds are directed to programs and projects that support economic development and community stability in communities most affected by the creation of the Nechako Reservoir.