July 11, 2003 Features & Images » Feature Story

Feature - Divide and Conquer 

Private energy companies given free reign to run our rivers for "green" hydro generation

Page 4 of 6

Cloudworks principal John Johnson acknowledges the importance of securing an EPA:

"You can’t finance a project unless you have your EPA, unless you’re a big enough company to be able to speculate," he said.

But the EPA is only one layer of bureaucracy for a budding micro-hydro developer. Another piece of vital paperwork is the land tenure and water licence, which is the stage where fish stewards and kayakers start to make noise.

Land tenure and water licences are issued by Land and Water British Columbia (LWBC), which was born out of the Whistler Land Corporation. Established in 1983 to develop and market Crown land in the Village of Whistler, LWBC has been through several incarnations before coming back around to something eerily resembling its genesis – an agency putting BC up for sale.

LWBC’s "Guide for Waterpower Projects" helps clarify its role for proponents:

"The environmentally-sound development of Crown land and water resources presents a significant opportunity for the Province to stimulate and diversify the economies of B.C.’s rural and coastal communities. In order to do that, LWBC focuses on sectors that have the most potential to achieve these goals, and waterpower projects have such potential.

A waterpower project requires a water licence under the Water Act , and tenure under the Land Act for any component of the project situated on Crown land. As part of LWBC’s commitment to accelerate economic development in key sectors, the corporation is committed to reducing the regulatory burden and providing clients with a more streamlined process. Applications for a waterpower project will be processed through ‘one window’ with the water licence and Crown land tenure applications adjudicated concurrently."

Stuart Smith makes note of LWBC’s facilitative role: "LWBC just took a 90 degree turn in policy. Formerly, they would only issue the water licence when all the other regulatory approvals were in place. Now, they don’t," he said.

"Now a proponent can get their water licence and tenure from LWBC without having secured any other approvals, the zoning, the federal approval, the environmental and fisheries impact information. So they have a permit to take the water out and nothing else is in place, and no one is watching them to ensure that they go and get those other approvals. It’s like letting someone in your house and just hoping they’ll have the sense to take their shoes off instead of walking all over your carpet. Once you have tenure and a water licence, it’s not easy for the province to take them back."

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