Independent power projects attracting attention 

Kayakers holding information meeting May 30

There may have been a time when kayakers were opposed to small run of river projects because they were worried about losing their recreational amenities.

But Don Butler, president of the Whitewater Kayaking Association of B.C., says independent power production is not just about the kayakers anymore.

"At first we thought we were arguing from a self-serving perspective, like they were going to take our rivers away," said Butler.

"What’s changed out of that is that we realize it’s a much bigger picture than just affecting the kayaking community."

Now Butler said the Independent Power Producers (IPPs) are affecting the community as a whole because of the plethora of applications on local rivers in the Sea to Sky corridor and their potential impacts.

The Pemberton area has the Rutherford and Miller Creek power projects underway and another project is being considered on the Ryan River.

In Whistler, Brandywine and Fitzsimmons Creeks are also being considered for power generation sites.

The Sea to Sky corridor is one of the hotspots for potential IPP activity in the future. There are more than 56 sites identified for potential small hydroelectric projects in this area.

Interest in IPPs has been on the rise ever since B.C. Hydro committed to meet 10 per cent of its increased demand for electricity through green energy sources until 2010.

This direction was reiterated in the new Provincial Energy Policy released last year, which identified IPPs as the primary source for new electricity in the river-rich province.

The IPPs meet BC Hydro’s "green" criteria if they are: renewable, licensable, socially responsible and have a low environmental impact.

But there are a number of people in the area who are calling B.C. Hydro to review its definition of green energy.

The Squamish-Lillooet Regional District hired consultant Jane Newlands to review IPPs and help determine a policy for dealing with them. Newlands’ report was adopted by the SLRD last month. She presented it to Whistler council this week and it will be presented to other regional districts and the Union of B.C. Municipalities.

Newlands told Whistler council on Tuesday that one of the concerns is the provincial government doesn’t have a process for taking an overall look at IPPs. As a result there can be incremental development rather than planned development of power projects.

Newlands also noted there are multiple agencies involved in the approval process, which can lead to substantial changes in a project.

Lisa Helmer, a fish and wildlife biologist from Pemberton, outlined her concerns in a recent letter to the province.

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