You are hereDistrict refuses permits for run-of-river project in Upper Lillooet Valley

District refuses permits for run-of-river project in Upper Lillooet Valley

Larry Pynn, Vancouver Sun, July 1 2013

A private run-of-river power producer is “considering all options” after the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District voted against issuing temporary-use permits to allow the company’s project to proceed in the upper Lillooet River Valley.

Innergex Renewable Energy spokesman Bas Brusche said in an interview Tuesday that the company’s preference is to keep working with the regional district and to resubmit its applications. But he said the district decision “puts a lot of uncertainty on the table” and that the company is looking at its “legal rights, obligations and requirements.”

The B.C. government granted conditional approval in January to Creek Power Inc.’s three related run-of-river hydro facilities — Boulder Creek, the Upper Lillooet River, and North Creek — 40 to 60 kilometres northwest of Pemberton. Since then, the company has said it plans to drop the North Creek proposal and generate a total of 106.7 megawatts at Boulder Creek and Upper Lillooet.

Creek Power is two-thirds owned by Innergex and one-third by Ledcor Power Group, with a revenue-sharing agreement with the Lil’wat First Nation.

On Monday, the regional district voted 6-3 not to accept a staff recommendation to issue temporary-use permits to let construction of the project, including work camps, proceed.

District concerns included the adequacy of permit-processing fees and letters of credit for the project, effects on grizzlies and commercial snowmobile tenures, and the absence of land-tenure agreements being finalized with the B.C. government.

Regional district chair Patricia Heintzman said run-of-river projects are not subject to public hearing, such as a rezoning application would be, leaving temporary-use permits as the community’s only way to exert some influence on them. She added the power project should be offering up some type of “community amenity” such as trail development.

Brusche said it is unfortunate that the local permitting process is not aligned with the provincial permitting.

“We got a positive staff recommendation, we have been told we met all the requirements for the permits, and to our surprise during the meeting new conditions were brought to the table,” Brusche said.

As for the land-tenure agreements, he said: “The execution letters, I understand, have been mailed but we have not received them yet.”

Brusche said the company has been working for seven years on the $400-million project. “We have done our homework,” he said.

He said the Power Creek project is on Crown land within the regional district, and that the temporary-use permits “fall within the authority of the regional district.’

The province passed a law in 2006 to prevent local governments from blocking private run-of-river power projects.

Brusche doesn’t know how the district’s decision would play out against that law but said the company preference is to use the provincial legislation “as a last resort” — something not currently anticipated.

Louise Ludlam-Taylor, spokeswoman for the 500-member Keep Pemberton Wild group, said regional directors had been contacted by phone and email before the vote about concerns with the project.

“We were incredibly happy, “ she said of the vote outcome. “Some level of government is actually listening to its constituents.”

The province approved the power project despite fears from its own wildlife biologists that it posed a significant risk to a recovering population of grizzly bears in southwestern B.C.

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