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- textual record
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- Source of title proper: Title based on the contents of the series.
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- British Columbia. Water Rights Branch
- British Columbia. Public Utilities Commission
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Archival description area
Name of creator
The Public Utilities Commission was established in 1938 by the Public Utilities Act (Statutes of British Columbia, 1938, 2 Geo. 6, chap. 47) to regulate public utilities in the province.
A public utility is defined in the act as a person or company that owns or operates equipment or facilities for the: 1. transportation of persons or property over a railway, street-railway, tramway, or ferry for public or any corporation for compensation; 2. operation of a toll bridge; 3. conveyance or transmission of messages or communications by telephone or telegraph, where such service is offered to the public or any corporation for compensation; 4. production, generation, storage, transmission, sale, delivery, or furnishing of gas, electricity or steam, or any other agency for the production of light, heat, cold or power to or for the public or any corporation for compensation; 5. diverting, developing, pumping, impounding, distributing, or furnishing water to or for the public or any corporation for compensation; 6. transportation of persons or property by motor-vehicles for the public for compensation.
The Public Utilities Commission was a regulatory agency of the provincial government, operating under and administering the Public Utilities Act. It consisted of three members appointed by the Lieutenant-Governor in Council for a period of ten years. Its primary responsibility was the regulation of rates charged, safety and standardization of service, and approval of construction of new facilities. The Commission’s function was quasi-judicial and it had the power to make legally binding rulings.
The Public Utilities Commission was terminated in 1973 when the Public Utilities Act was repealed. The functions of the Commission relating to energy (water, gas, electricity, steam/ light, heat, cold, power) were transferred to the British Columbia Energy Commission established at the same time under the Energy Act (Statutes of British Columbia, 1973, 21-22 Eliz. 2, chap. 29). Responsibility for the functions of the Commission relating to transportation and communications were transferred to the Dept. of Transportation and Communications. Responsibility for the functions of water utilities was transferred to the Comptroller of Water Rights.
Name of creator
The Water Rights Branch was established in 1909. Its name was changed to Water Management Branch in 1979.
The Water Rights Branch reported to the following departments and ministries: Dept. of Lands (1909-1945), Dept. of Lands and Forests (1945-1962), Dept. of Lands, Forests and Water Resources (1962-1975), Dept of Environment (1975-1976), Ministry of the Environment (1976-1978) and Ministry of Municipal Affairs (1978-1979).
The Dept. of Lands was established in 1908 (Department of Lands Act, SBC 1908, c. 31). Before 1908 the agencies responsible for the functions of the Dept. of Lands: (1) the Dept. of Lands and Works (Crown lands management, sales, pre-emptions and leases, lands surveying and mapping, timber inspection, forest protection and log scaling), and (2) the Dept. of Mines (water rights in regards to mining operations).
The Dept. of Lands, headed by the Chief Commissioner of Lands, was given responsibility for public lands and water rights, and all matters connected therewith. (SBC 1908, c. 31, s. 5). These responsibilities included: (1) the management of all public lands, as per the Land Act, (RSBC 1897, c. 113); (2) administration of water rights, as per the Water Clauses Consolidation Act, (RSBC 1897, c. 191) [in 1892 by means of the Water Privileges Act (SBC 1892, c. 47), the government had reserved to itself the right to manage all water resources in the province that were unreserved and un-appropriated as of April 23, 1892]; and (3) land settlement programs for returned soldiers.
In 1909, the enactment of the Water Act (SBC 1909, c. 48) resulted in the creation of the Water Rights Branch of the Dept. of Lands, under the management of the Chief Water Commissioner (re-named Comptroller of Water Rights in 1912). This legislation also resulted in the creation of Water Districts under the management of District Engineers, who would be responsible for management in the field of the Branch’s responsibilities.
In 1945, the Dept. of Lands was renamed the Dept. of Lands and Forests (Department of Lands Act Amendment Act, SBC 1945, c. 45).
Scope and content
The series consists of copies of utilities files created after the implementation of the Public Utilities Act (S.B.C. 1938, c. 47). The files date from 1938-1989 and document the regulation of water utilities throughout the province. The records from 1938 to 1973 were created by the Public Utilities Commission. In 1973, the responsibility for water utilities was transferred to the Office of the Comptroller of Water Rights in accordance with the Water Utility Act (S.B.C. 1973, c. 91).
The records are arranged alphabetically in two groups that coincide with whether the water utility was private or public. Most files also have an assigned numeric number. Between 1938 and 1973 the file number consists of “U-“ followed by a sequential number that coincides with order that the utility was regulated. All files were renumbered in 1974 with a new number that begins with “0321” followed by a three digit number.
The files contain copies of orders-in- council and orders of the Comptroller of Water Rights establishing, amending the original application, or deregistering water utilities. There are also annual reports, financial statements, water utility reports and names of water utility directors.