Positive fallout from Miller Creek project 

Clearer direction for small hydroelectric projects in the SLRD

Key stakeholders of small run-of-river projects have developed better policies to deal with future power developments in the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District.

"We reached agreement on several areas which will certainly improve how IPP’s (Independent Power Projects) are processed and the public consultation component," said Susan Gimse, director for Electoral Area C in the SLRD.

The all-day stakeholder meeting, which took place in Burnaby on July 12, brought together representatives from the SLRD, B.C. Hydro, Land and Water B.C., the Ministry of Energy and Mines, B.C. Utilities Commission and the president of the Independent Power Producers Association.

The workshop was precipitated by a June showdown between residents in Pemberton and EPCOR, the Alberta-based company putting a small hydroelectric project on Miller Creek.

Residents said the power company promised to transmit the power along existing hydro lines. EPCOR said it needed more poles at larger heights to move this power.

They could not find an agreement and in the end, EPCOR representatives told the stunned community they were moving ahead as planned.

The SLRD immediately set out to hire a consultant who could bring all the provincial players together to hammer out policies which would prevent another Miller Creek situation from happening.

The key stakeholders at the July 12 meeting agreed to several policy changes. These recommendations were presented at the monthly SLRD board meeting on Monday, July 22.

At the top of the list were concerns over the public consultation process. Stakeholders agreed there should be a joint public process with local governments and Land and Water B.C.

"So they are hearing the same things we’re hearing, so there is no misunderstanding in terms of what the community’s needs are and concerns," said Gimse.

Other areas of concern were the physical designs of the power projects.

Currently B.C. Hydro works with the IPP to develop designs for the transmission lines. Stakeholders agreed those designs need to be discussed with local governments and the public.

"We need to clearly understand how this power is going to be moved," said Gimse.

Another initiative agreed on at the meeting is that there needs to be a clear process for changes to the design after the project has been approved.

"Any substantive amendments must come back to local government for review and approval," said Gimse.

In addition, they asked that there be more detailed engineering plans before the approval process to prevent major amendments and surprises later in the development.

The SLRD may also change its Official Community Plans (OCPs) to identify areas that are considered of scenic value to the community.

"That is something that we will definitely be looking at with respect to the Area C OCP," Gimse said.

"Developers will know right off the bat that this is an area that has been defined as high scenic value."

Miller Creek is in Area C and residents say the new poles, at greater heights, adversely affect their scenic gateway community.

This policy is especially important to the Sea to Sky corridor, a place that relies on its scenic value for tourism.

Gimse called the workshop and the directions that came out of it very timely.

The province is also working to develop a clearer process to deal with IPPs.

Land and Water B.C. is expecting to process more than 340 applications in the next two years as B.C. Hydro is encouraging more green energy.

The SLRD alone has 56 applications for run-of-river projects, although some of those applications may not be approved in the long run.

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