Monday November 8, 2010

Local News

The Blue Gold Rush

Harrison IPP projects enough to light up over 30,000 homes but in what country, the US or Canada?

Craig Hill/Voice


Chilliwack residents gather for Cloudworks pub-con at Evergreen Hall last week. Voice photos.


here's water in them thar hills and it's creating something that looks like the corporate gold rush of the new millennium. Right across the province, plans are being made to harvest energy from creeks in what are called Run-of-River projects. Its unprecedented and the environmental footprint of these private power plants is permanent. So there's a pressing need to get it right the first time.


About 150 residents and environmentalists from around the Lower Mainland took part in yet another public consultation last Wednesday in Chilliwack at Evergreen Hall. This time it was regarding Independent Power Producer (IPP) Cloudworks Energy who are proposing to take over four creeks that feed the relatively pristine, 60-kilometre Harrison Lake.

Matt Kennedy, Cloudworks VP of Environment and representatives from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and BC Ministry of Environment fielded a variety of questions and comments surrounding issues like soil degradation and erosion, fish and wildlife habit loss and water quality from concerned citizens and environmentalists who came from all points in the Lower Mainland.

Kennedy gave a presentation that received a healthy round of applause despite the fact that many who came to the meeting actually were opposed to the projects.

On the upside, the proposals will initially bring-in temporary construction jobs and later add permanent ones like linemen and power engineers.

But on the downside, Western Wildlife representatives say that herds of mountain goats will be scared into leaping off of cliffs after being spooked by helicopters bringing in heavy equipment and building materials for the penstocks and power plants.

Also, according to opponents, BC already has ample electricity for it's own needs stored in the form of water behind dams and that any new power plant projects are redundant and also that constructing penstocks and power stations will impede fish and be a needless affront on the environment. In the end, they say its the people of BC who'll be the losers.

Because electricity can't be banked or stored here, then at certain times of the year, when BC Hydro reserves are maxed-out, the excess energy produced will be sold through the province's public utility to the US.

This is causing concern with people who feel that it will permanently erode the BC's sovereignty and compromise control over it's own natural resources by allowing the province's water resources to be pieced-off, creek-by-creek, in order to appease outside interests and conglomerates like General Electric.

However, this isn't quite the case for the Douglas First Nations (DFN) located at the head of Harrison Lake who are about to flip on the light switch for the first time in the band's history.

Chief Ernest Armann, told the Voice in an e-mail today, that they had an "excellent working relationship with Cloudworks" and are partnering to "ensure responsible development that will provide sustainable benefits for the community."

"Since DFN is the stewards of this area and they have been working on this development for a long period of time ensuring proper measures are in place to mitigate impacts and I see the positive benefits of the developments, you could say I fully support the projects," wrote Armann.

In total, the four Cloudworks project proposals are at Statlu, Trethewey, Shovel and Big Silver creeks will generate a total of 86-megawatts, enough to power 30,800 homes including the Southem St'at'imc Nations (Samahquam, Skatin, Douglas) communities of Q'aLaTku7em, Skatin, Port Douglas and Tipella who are connecting their community to the hydro grid for the first time in a historic ceremony Friday, Nov 12.

The Voice will continue to follow this story closely and report on developments.

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