You are hereRun-of-river sector in regulatory disarray, documents suggest

Run-of-river sector in regulatory disarray, documents suggest

Larry Pynn, Vancouver Sun, January 23, 2013

Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations lists 749 non-compliance incidents from 16 hydro projects in 2010

The independent run-of-river power sector is in regulatory disarray, following inconsistent rules designed to protect fish and with provincial officials hard-pressed to crack down due to lack of staff and resources, freedom-of-information documents show.

The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations states in a staff report approved by Julia Berardinucci, director of resource management in Surrey, there were 749 non-compliance incidents from a total of 16 hydro plants in southwest B.C. in 2010.

They included 313 incidents related to ramping (fluctuating water levels), 292 of not notifying government official of problems, 101 to not fulfilling mitigation requirements, and 43 to not maintaining in-stream flow rates.

Flow rates ensure there is sufficient water for fish downstream of power plants, while ramping rates (typically associated with the shutdown of a power plant for maintenance or an unanticipated failure) let water levels fluctuate gradually so young fish won't be stranded.

"There has been a lack of resources (staff, database tools) ... to track/ monitor compliance at various facilities," ministry engineering assistant Charlene Menezes writes in a document dated March 29, 2012.

His report recommends a compliance monitoring program and a database to track incidents of noncompliance.

Gwen Barlee, the Wilderness Committee policy director who obtained the documents, said in an interview Tuesday that the documents confirm that the run-of-river sector "does not have proper oversight and can't even meet low environmental standards."

She described the 749 incidents of non-compliance as "mind boggling" and noted, for example, that non-compliance at the Furry Creek hydro plant near Squamish continued for 2½ months but was reported as one incident.

Paul Kariya, executive director of Clean Energy B.C., which represents run-of-river projects, said the industry "is trying to do better ... and where we can improve - and we're always in a learning mode - yes, we're all for it.

"I'm not denying that ramping incidents that hurt fish do occur; certainly they do, as they would for BC Hydro."

Ministry spokeswoman Vivian Thomas said the purpose of the report was to inform decision-makers on "potential compliance issues, so they can set appropriate conditions for projects under review."

The province is aware of three incidents that resulted in fish strandings and kills in 2010: one fish killed and one stranded on the lower Mamquam, 52 fish stranded and six killed on the upper Stave, and 166 stranded and 87 killed on Ashlu Creek.

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