You are hereRun-of-river proposal receives positive response

Run-of-river proposal receives positive response


Laura Walz, Powell River Peak, October 10, 2012

City officials ask for direct award of power contract

City of Powell River officials advanced their proposal for a run-of-river project on Freda Creek during the UBCM (Union of BC Municipalities) annual convention at the end of September.

The city is proposing to move forward with the project that has the potential to generate 36 megawatts of power. It had originally been proposed by Plutonic Power Corporation, which merged with Magma Energy Corporation last year to form Alterra Power.

At UBCM, city councillors, Tla’amin (Sliammon) First Nation Chief Clint Williams and a consultant hired for the project outlined the proposal with a number of provincial ministers and New Democratic Party MLAs.

“I would have to say that the Freda Creek proposal that we’re investigating was very well received on both sides,” said Mayor Dave Formosa. “What we’re trying to do is create the analogy of independent power producers, green energy, Powell River-Sliammon community power utility.”

Formosa said he used the community forest program as a model when speaking to provincial officials. “We need to think about how community forests were implemented and how they were granted,” he said.

The idea is to carve some of the independent, green power capacity in the province out from the private sector and make it available to communities, Formosa explained.

If communities have a good, solid proposal, Formosa said, they shouldn’t risk $1 to $3 million putting together a package, then compete against private developers during a call for a contract. “We’re risking community money,” he said. “Therefore, we should have almost direct awards if we meet certain criteria.”

The Freda Creek project hits all the right notes, Formosa said. It’s community owned, it would use penstocks only and wouldn’t require damming and it would only generate power in the winter, when it’s needed, he explained.

Williams attended meetings between council and Ida Chong, minister of aboriginal relations and reconciliation, and Michael de Jong, minister of finance, on Tuesday, September 25. “I think the meetings went well,” Williams said. “They like the concept of community power and I hope that we can grow this project with the help of those individuals. I hope that people will share the enthusiasm of this project. I think now it’s waiting to see if the ministers will entertain awarding us a contract without a call for power.”

Tla’amin has received two grants for the project, Williams said. In July, it received $106,000 from the federal government’s eco-energy program for first nations. The year before, it had a smaller grant, of just under $50,000, from the same program.

They are finishing up the pre-feasibility stage and are getting ready for the feasibility stage, he explained.

The city and Tla’amin are in the process of forming a company, which will be a 50-50 partnership. The city has specific regulations it has to follow to set up corporations. “Nothing ever happens fast enough,” said Williams. “It would be nice to see more progress made on this if the federal and provincial governments were on board.”

Tla’amin also now has the water licence for the project, Williams said, which it obtained through the impact benefit agreement it signed with Plutonic for the Toba-Montrose project.

The revenue the Freda Creek project would create would be used in the community and it wouldn’t have any strings attached to it, Williams said. “It would provide a lot of freedom for both Powell River and Sliammon, to use own-source revenue that they generated themselves to put toward any program or any developments that they wish to see happen that aren’t limited by provincial or federal regulations.”

There is a meeting scheduled with Powell River Regional District during which the consultant will provide an overview of the project, Formosa said, along with city and Tla’amin representatives. After that, there will be a public meeting about the project, he said.

The regional district is on record opposing the Freda Creek project, because of the potential impact on flows, fish, forestry and public access.

If the project proceeds, it would go through an environmental assessment process, Formosa said.

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