SLRD rejects Ashlu IPP 

Province to review decision in light of provincial energy concerns

The local regional district may have pulled the plug on the Ashlu Creek Independent Power Project but the provincial government says the project is not dead yet.

"I don’t think it’s dead," said Richard Neufeld, the provincial minister of energy and mines. "Maybe there has to be some more information given, maybe there has to be some more discussions.

"Once George Abbott (minister of sustainable resource management) gets back from holidays, him and I will be having a meeting to decide what we’re going to do and how we could move it forward, if that’s what we chose to do."

Neufeld’s comments came on the heels of Tuesday’s decision from the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District board, which effectively killed the controversial run of river project on the Ashlu Creek by denying a rezoning application.

The minister said he was concerned by the decision, particularly as the power from the Ashlu Creek was targeted by B.C. Hydro as green energy to meet provincial energy needs in the future.

"We have to review it (the decision) in light of the fact that that was part of the supply that B.C. Hydro would have used in years going forward to provide energy to British Columbians… to keep the lights on in British Columbia," said Neufeld. "So obviously it has some impacts on the whole province, not just there."

He could not say if the province would step in and overrule the SLRD.

"I haven’t looked into that," he said. "A decision was just made… and so that would not be my ministry that would be actively doing that to start with, but to be honest, I haven’t looked at that."

Eight of the nine regional district board members voted against the project Tuesday. Some SLRD directors were almost apologetic as they explained their positions before an audience of about 20 people, including representatives from the development company, Ledcor, and project opponents.

In particular, board members such as Pemberton Mayor Elinor Warner, recognized the impact of the board’s decision on the Squamish Nation, who stood to gain tremendous economic benefits from a partnership with Ledcor if the project had been approved. The project would have reverted to the Squamish First Nation in 40 years.

"I believe First Nations are good stewards of the land," she said, adding that she did not think they would have signed off on a project that would have been environmentally detrimental.

"But having said that, you can’t ignore another community."

That other community she referred to was not only the residents of the Upper Squamish Valley, whose concerns ranged from noise impacts of the project to the possible impact on grizzly bear habitat, but also the community of kayakers and tourism operators who use the Ashlu Creek for recreation.


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