Tuesday February 28, 2012

Environment

IPP's and Spawning Salmon

Sakwi and Weaver Creeks in water snipers sights

Submitted by Deliah Simpere

 

akwi Creek is approximately 15 kilometers northwest of Agassiz, BC. Itís a major tributary originating in the Hemlock Valley and flowing into Weaver Creek where it becomes an integral part of the Weaver Creek Fish Hatchery and Spawning Channel.

 

A large number of watercourses can be found throughout Hemlock Valley, all of which drain into Sakwi Creek. Weaver Creek Fish Hatchery, home to millions of salmon, has become an important tourist destination since its creation in 1965. Sakwi Creek and Weaver Creek merge just above the spawning channels and then continue to flow down into Morris Lake, the wetlands and then into the Harrison River, renowned for sport fishing.

Such a critical salmon enhancement facility should be protected without compromise, especially in light of the fact that it is located in an already sensitive environment with hazardously unstable terrain in a steep valley subject to high volumes of precipitation and runoff. Unfortunately, that is not the case, as it has fallen prey to one of the many Independent Power Projects (IPP) proposed for the Harrison area.

The Sakwi Creek Power Corporation (a subsidiary of Innergix, formally Cloudworks) has put in a proposal to build a Run-of-the-River Hydro Electric Power project, intake and powerhouse above the Spawning Channel on Sakwi Creek with the return water going back in below at a spawning area fed by both Sakwi and Weaver Creeks.

According to the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (FLNR), the proposals are put through "a vigorous review process", but to what end when you consider that their mandate is to primarily encourage investment in and development of natural resources. This is a ministry that the government created as the provinceís "One Land Manager" that appears to by-pass other environmental agencies and streamline the whole process of permit applications into a "one stop shop".

In order to achieve SCPCís goals, the provincial government would entrust our precious natural fish resource to the private sector, which in the past has demonstrated their low environmental standards. This deficit, combined with cumulative impacts and the lack of regulatory oversight by the Ministry of the Environment due to 50% budget cuts, seems like a formula for disaster. Ultimately, the decision of water flow and regulation will be determined at the discretion of the energy corporation who in this case is Innnergix. Companies are bought, sold and traded and have varying standards and corporate agendas.

IPPs are part of a future push by the Campbell /Clark agenda to bankrupt BC Hydro into privatization by forcing them into 30 billion dollars worth of energy purchase agreements with independent power producers. This expensive surplus power will replace BC Hydroís own inexpensive power and will be exported at a loss.BC Hydro will cut its future costs by 50% and will be unable to repair its aging facilities and build necessary generators on flood control dams.

The Fraser Valley Regional District and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans would both have to relinquish land reserves that have been designated for a 3ha community/regional park. Whose interests are being served here? The regional district must put the interests of residents, wildlife and habitat before private power corporations. When will the newly created FLNR start to protect our resources and environment instead of protecting the mandate of the large private corporate structure?

According to a report by the Ministry of the Environment dated March 22, 1994, Sakwi Creek was listed as a candidate for a restoration program, as in the past "Historic Logging" in the Sakwi drainage area has been a major factor in the increased erosion and bed load movement. Any additional development activity in such an environmentally sensitive area would pose further degradation and risk.

Runoff would be contaminated by rock blasting; construction would contribute to bank erosion which in turn will contribute to sediment transport during high flow levels. On site concrete production could contaminate drainage and stream areas which could result in ph imbalances for fish. Plant operations will result in changes to stream habitat and diversion of flows. Seventy million salmon would be put at risk for a seasonal project that only generates power at high water times.

This area is already known to have a limited supply of water that could be additionally compromised due to climate change. Old growth and species at risk have been identified within this eco-system. Undoubtedly, an unbiased assessment of the environmental concerns would show that the project is simply not viable. Our wild rivers must be left intact and in the public domain for the benefit of all. IPPís must come under intense scrutiny if we are to protect this irreplaceable heritage.

 

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