By September 1959, Squaw Rapids, upstream of the community of Cumberland House, had emerged as the favoured site for the construction of a dam that was part of a larger provincial project to supply electricity to the entire province. With an estimated cost of 46 million dollars, construction of the dam by the Saskatchewan Power Company began in early 1960. Although the projected benefits for Cumberland House were significant, they had not consulted the local people about the project's possible effects. After the dam was constructed, significant changes to water levels hurt fish, fowl, fur-bearing animals and large mammal populations that local people relied on. The dam also made ice roads on the river unsafe for travel.
The changes in water levels made it difficult for local residents to continue fishing and trapping activities. Some residents of Cumberland House who were employed as guides during the summer hunting season could no longer work - the river had become so low that canoes and floating-equipped planes could no longer be used.
Richard H. Bartlett. Hydroelectric Power and Indian Water Rights on the Prairies