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First Nations group defends power project


Dan MacLennan, Campbell River Courier-Islander, June 13, 2012

A group of North Island First Nations is defending a contentious run-of-river power project, saying the NDP's opposition to the project is misinformed.

"Members of the BC NDP Caucus have recently made inaccurate statements regarding the proposed Kleana run-of-river hydroelectric project," Dallas Smith, president of the Nanwakolas Council, said in a statement released last week. "The project is being proposed on the Klinaklini River north of Knight Inlet by the Da'naxda'xw/Awaetlala First Nations and their partner, Kleana Power Corporation. The project is subject to environmental review under provincial and federal environmental assessment legislation.

"If built, the Kleana project would be one of the most sustainable sources of clean energy in North America. In fact, the Kleana project would have the smallest environmental foot-print per kilowatt-hour of electricity of any new power project in British Columbia."

Earlier in the week, the NDP issued a release attacking the BC Liberals for breaking their word on protecting the Great Bear Rainforest.

"Two years ago we were delighted when the environment minister effectively killed this project by refusing to change the conservancy boundaries," said North Island MLA Claire Trevena. "So it was extremely disappointing to see the new Liberal environment minister reverse that decision."

According to the NDP, then-minister Barry Penner stated clearly in the legislature in May 2010 that the legislative changes to the boundaries of the Upper Klinaklini Conservancy would not be moved to facilitate the project. The NDP says the project threatens to "devastate a huge swath of wilderness on B.C.'s mid-coast."

"The Klinaklini Hydroelectric Project proposed for Knight Inlet would generate as much as 800 MW of power at peak flow conditions, and require a 30-metre-high dam and a 10-metre-diameter tunnel to divert the river down a 17 kilometre pipe," an NDP release stated. "It would affect as much as 57 hectares of riparian habitat, two-thirds of which is old growth forest, and flood a 5.5 square kilometer section of the forest."

"The environmental devastation from this project is unthinkable," said New Democrat deputy environment critic Michael Sather. "Five species of wild salmon make the Klinaklini their home. This project would affect them, plus red and blue-listed species and a grizzly bear and moose corridor."

Sather and Trevena said the legislation that moves the boundaries was rammed through the B.C. legislature on the final two days of the spring session, allowing only 30 minutes for debate.

"The Liberals said they weren't going to encroach on the conservancy, and now they've done exactly that," said Trevena. "And without thorough debate, they embedded it in legislation that also made a number of other changes to B.C. parks."

The Nanwakolas Council represents eight member First Nations whose traditional territories are located in the Northern Vancouver Island and adjacent South Central Coast areas. Nanwakolas serves as the vehicle through which the member First Nations regionally pursue land and marine resource planning and management and resource-based economic development activities.

Smith said the facts about the project are as follows:

. A 550 megawatt plant is being contemplated, which stands in contrast to the claim that the project would generate 800 megawatts of power.

. The Kleana would be a true run-of-river hydroelectric project. It would only require a nine-metre high intake weir with a small nonfluctuating headpond with absolutely no capacity for water storage. The claim that the project would require a 30-metre high dam or large reservoir to divert water is incorrect.

. The claim that the project would require a "10-metre-diameter tunnel to divert the river down a 17 kilometre pipe" is highly inaccurate. Water would be diverted through an underground tunnel before it is returned unaltered to the river. A diversion tunnel is more expensive than an above-ground penstock, but it completely avoids the loss of terrestrial habitat like old growth forest and associated wildlife.

. Less than three hectares of forested land would be affected by the water of the project's headpond. The claim that the project would flood a 5.5 square kilometre (550 hectare) section of the forest is incorrect.

. The project could potentially affect less than five hectares of riparian habitat, none of which is old growth forest. The claim that it would affect as much as 57 hectares of riparian habitat, two-thirds of which is old growth forest, is inaccurate.

. Four years of field study have demonstrated there are 21 natural fish barriers in the canyon. Not a single adult salmon was observed during this time and the canyon is many miles away from the Eulachon grounds.

There will be no net negative impact to eulachon, salmon or grizzly bear by the project. The recent claim that the project would affect salmon and "red and blue-listed species and a grizzly bear and moose corridor" is inaccurate. In fact, the project has the potential to deliver a net benefit to fish populations.

"The Kleana project holds the potential to deliver significant economic and social benefits to our people, the surrounding coastal communities and all British Columbians," Smith said. "The modification to the Upper KlinaKlini Conservancy boundary respects and accommodates the Da'naxda'xw/Awaetlala First Nation's Aboriginal title. The minor modification is 60 hectares or approximately one seventh of one percent of the 40,000 hectare conservancy.

"The boundary modification will enable the environmental assessment of the Kleana project. If the project is not approved under the Environmental Assessment Act, the land will be placed back in the conservancy."

© Campbell River Courier-Islander 2012

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