Thursday November 11, 2010



Harrison Power Play

Communities' rights are being whitewashed

Submitted by Jan Longmore


Chilliwack River at Tamahi mid-September. Voice file photo.


here is an extremely important issue that is looming at our doorstep. It has to do with the independent power projects (IPP's) involving our precious creeks and it looks like it is going to continue, unless of course, someone stops them.

Those of you who attended the movie night we co-hosted last June at Deroche Hall ("BC's Water Under Threat") you will recall Damien Gillis' film showing the brutal devastation that took place a few years ago at the hands of Cloudworks Energy Inc.

The event Wednesday (was) an "Open House and Invitation to Comment" on the waterpower projects being proposed by Cloudworks taking place on Statlu Creek, Tretheay Creek, Shovel Creek, and Big Silver Creek near Harrison Lake. This is the one and only public event held to inform and give the public an opportunity voice their concerns, although written submissions will be accepted until Nov. 25th. See the "Community Events" page of our website  for more details. Also see latest news on our home page for a newspaper article regarding this issue. Other info regarding this project will be on our site soon.                                               

                                                                                Area C Environmental Stewards

For those of you who didn't attend "BC's Water Under Threat", or for those who would like to see Damien's film "Powerplay: Up The Mountain" again, the link follows. I encourage you to check it out because it really is quite unbelievable. 

Here's some background information on this critical issue from:

In 2002, the provincial government arbitrarily banned BC Hydro, a Crown Corporation, from producing any new hydroelectric power. Instead, BC Hydro was forced to purchase additional energy from private power producers, often at double the price of current market rates.

This policy change led to a gold rush by private corporations seeking to develop hydroelectricity from BC’s creeks and rivers. Today, over 600 water licenseshave been granted to private power producers.

There are many problems with independent power projects (IPPs). Each new development requires roads, logging, transmission lines, dams, river diversions, powerhouses, and ongoing maintenance. And since the BC government approaches each project individually, it has failed to address the cumulative environmental impact of hundreds of such developments.

Run-of-river (ROR) power projects—frequently touted as the modern day clean, green energy solution—are not, as we are led to believe, free-flowing rivers with a small electricity generating turbine. With RORs, typically up to 80-90%

of the river is diverted into a pipe, known as a penstock, which directs water downhill several kilometers to a turbine that generates electricity. Before the water is returned to its source, there is just minimum flow left in the river.

Since IPPs are almost fully automated, they are vulnerable to malfunctions. One such malfunction happened at the Miller Creek plant near Pemberton, BC in September 2007. An accident resulted in a critical low water incident when water was unable to flow into the creek for several hours. The alarm system failed and the creek, containing important populations of bull trout, whitefish, and salmon, was reduced to just inches of water.

Environmental checks and balances are sorely lacking in ROR projects. The BC Environmental Assessment process offers scant protection. An assessment is only applied to projects over 50 Mw, so many IPPs are overlooked.

Private power projects also raise serious concerns about energy security. In paying for private hydro through Energy Purchase Agreements (EPAs), British Columbians are assuming the capital costs for these projects. But when the 30-40 year contract periods expire, the public won’t own any assets. And at the end of these agreements, power in BC could be exported to the US or sold to whichever region can afford to pay top dollar.

Recently, the provincial government withdrew the rights of local communities to refuse private power projects in their jurisdictions. In 2006, as a result of dozens of IPPs slated for development in the Sea-to-Sky corridor, the Squamish

Lillooet Regional District requested a regional planning process for the area and would not approve a large IPP slated for construction on the Ashlu River. In response, the BC government rescinded zoning rights from municipalities, thereby revoking their authority to approve or reject private power projects.

Ultimately, through privatization of hydroelectricity, the BC government has given away an invaluable natural resource to private corporations. This giveaway not only threatens the ecological integrity of hundreds of BC rivers, while

enriching developers, it undermines the ability of the province to control future energy development and engage in coherent energy conservation initiatives.

Please make every effort to attend this meeting even if this isn't your "pet project' and even if you do not know the issues relating to the IPP's. Watch Damien's film and you'll soon see all you need to know about this "greenwashed" industry. It is only one evening and I think it is really important to show a substantial oppositional presence.


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