Fitzsimmons power project fits beside luge track 

Ledcor, VANOC, Whistler-Blackcomb work to co-ordinate construction

Fitzsimmons Creek power proponents are looking for ways to piggyback construction of the run of river project with the Olympic bob/luge track this summer.

"Whenever they’re ready to go then we would tag along," said Ledcor spokesperson Kelly Boychuk, who added it’s a matter of co-ordination with the Vancouver Organizing Committee.

Ledcor has yet to get all its permits and approvals in place for the project and would need the nod from Whistler’s council to move it ahead.

But the partners, including Ledcor and Terasen Gas, VANOC and Whistler-Blackcomb, are doing their best to see renewable energy produced from the flowing waters of Fitzsimmons Creek in the near future.

"You’ve got three quite willing partners right now that are trying now to make the project happen," said Arthur DeJong, Whistler-Blackcomb’s mountain planning and environmental resource manager. "VANOC is very much seeing it as a valuable project integrated with the sliding centre and Whistler-Blackcomb’s position hasn’t changed with respect to sustainability, that the most meaningful thing we can do is drive renewable energy."

The project had been delayed because it overlapped the area of the $55 million Whistler Sliding Centre. Now that the bobsled/luge track is designed, however, it appears there is room for both projects to move ahead.

"The forefront of the work that I’m working on… is the integration of that penstock design (the power project’s large water pipe) with the sliding centre and making sure that as we move forward that if they’re ready to go and they’ve got their designs ready and their construction co-ordinated and their finances approved, then we’re ready to work with them hand in hand when that time comes," said Jan Jansen, VANOC’s director of Whistler competition venues.

"As they detail their design we can fine-tune ours and make sure that both projects are feasible."

It is more economical and efficient to do the projects jointly, however if Ledcor isn’t ready for a summer construction start, Jansen said they would refine the designs to ensure the power project can be built around the sliding centre at a later date – designing a so-called "flexible platform."

"If they weren’t ready… we need to develop a design that, should someone come along in a year or two’s time, we haven’t negated the opportunity," said Jansen.

The Fitzsimmons Creek project is coming forward at a time when there are larger regional concerns about run of river power production in the Sea to Sky corridor. The regional district had asked the province for a moratorium on run of river projects until a region-wide study was complete. The province, however, appears reluctant to do such a study and has asked the regional district to reconsider its rejection of the run of river project on the Ashlu Creek.

And while DeJong recognizes the region’s concerns about run of river projects, he said the Fitzsimmons Creek is a unique opportunity, lending itself to this kind of industrial use.

The power produced annually by the Fitzsimmons would be the equivalent of the power used by Whistler-Blackcomb, or enough energy for 3,000 homes for a year.

"The Fitzsimmons watershed is far different from any other watershed in the entire corridor," said DeJong. "It’s a body of water that already has an industrial application. It’s our principle water source. It has snowmaking infrastructure throughout the entire footprint (of the run of river project)."

He also said the ecological values on the Fitzsimmons are less than in other corridor rivers.

When asked if it was financially feasible to move forward with the power project Boychuk said: "That’s what our numbers are showing."

Ledcor has also involved Terasen Gas, the company building a natural gas pipeline from Squamish to Whistler, in the Fitzsimmons Creek project.

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