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Talks break down over Ashlu Creek IPP proposal

Residents of Upper Squamish Valley say they aren’t interested in amenities; want area left as is

Talks between the residents of the Upper Squamish Valley and independent power project proponent Ledcor are over.

At a recent community meeting on Aug. 10, a letter was read aloud to Ledcor representatives stating that the community was not willing to sit down with the company for hours on end to hear about the merits of their proposed run of river project on the Ashlu Creek.

Tom Rankin, a resident of the Upper Squamish who has been heavily involved in the opposition of the project, explained that the majority of the residents, roughly 80 per cent, felt the community meetings were not helpful.

"The truth of the matter is that we felt that that was not a very reasonable use of our time," he said.

"The letter essentially said that we’re not bargaining on the Ashlu."

Ledcor plans to build a run of river project on the Ashlu Creek which would remove water from the creek, divert it into a tunnel and powerhouse, and then send it back into the creek further downstream.

It’s similar to other area projects on the Brandywine Creek, Rutherford Creek and Millar Creek. Ledcor has also proposed a similar project on Fitzsimmons Creek in Whistler.

Ledcor Project Manager Kelly Boychuk said he was disappointed at the outcome of the talks with the residents.

"It was disappointing because the meeting was being held for them, to answer any questions that they had, but I guess they decided that they didn’t want to hear any more information and so they left," he said.

Rankin said, however, that the residents shouldn’t be painted as the "bad guys" who are abdicating from the process.

Instead, he pointed out that these independent community meeting are not part of the provincial protocol for approving IPPs. Any discussions about the project therefore, should fall under the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District or the province, represented by Land and Water B.C.

"That’s the forum," said Rankin.

"That’s where it belongs."

In a letter to the SLRD following the aborted meeting, Upper Squamish Valley resident Elaine Wall wrote:

"The residents of the Upper Squamish Valley are being involved in a lengthy and time consuming process which is becoming costly in terms of time and energy.

"The SLRD public hearing in May clearly demonstrated local opposition to the license application.

"Ledcor is now engaging our community. This odd process seems unreasonable and we have notified Ledcor accordingly."

Ledcor’s Aug. 10th meeting was a follow up from an earlier meeting put on by the company to discuss residents’ concerns about the project.

Among the list of concerns set out at the first meeting were noise pollution, quality of life, economic benefits, additional power on the hydro lines and the impacts on the environment and wildlife, to name a few.

After two and a half hours the group had only covered a handful of points, which prompted the second meeting.

The meetings were also put on to talk about potential community benefits from Ledcor.

Boychuk explained that the benefits were offered "to recognize the inconvenience of construction traffic on people’s lives during the construction period."

Rankin said they’re not open to amenity talks because they don’t want the project in the Ashlu Valley whatsoever.

"Nobody wants to talk about amenities up here because we believe that you can’t replace the canyon. You just can’t replace it," he said,

Boychuk said there are still some residents who want to hear more about the project and some of the potential community benefits, such as a new playground or basketball court or a swimming pond at the upper end of the Ashlu delta.

"Local residents still call me and offer suggestions and ideas," he said.

In the meantime another public information meeting will be held under the SLRD banner in September. A public open house will follow that meeting and the SLRD board members will then vote on the fate of the project.