Watch these timelapse animations of recent water withdrawals and industrial activity in Fort Nelson First Nation traditional territory for natural gas hydraulic fracturing. These short term licenses were all issued without public or First Nations consultation. Courtesy of FNFN Lands Dept. and mapper Bobby Concepcion.
Read this story by Mark Hume in the Globe and Mail on Fort Nelson First Nation’s concerns about long-term water withdrawal licence applications for shale gas development in their territory in northeast BC. (Nov. 13, 2012)
Kanute Loe, an elder with a small native band in northeast British Columbia, measures the impact of the gas industry on the environment by looking at the water levels dropping in the streams and rivers he fishes.
“I spend a lot of my time in the bush. I travel the rivers … there’s creeks that there’s no water coming out of,” he said Tuesday.
“All of a sudden we’re having trouble catching fish … Our rivers are getting harder to navigate … it’s almost like somebody drilled a hole in the bottom of the bathtub,” Mr. Loe said in Vancouver at a news conference to express aboriginal concerns about increasing water extraction by industry.
Sharleen Wildeman, chief of the Fort Nelson First Nation, said her band has grown alarmed at the growing needs of the gas industry, which draws water from streams, lakes and rivers. The water is mixed with sand and chemicals in a slurry that is injected deep under ground. The process, known as hydraulic fracturing or fracking, breaks up shale structures and releases gas deposits.
Ms. Wildeman, whose 800-member band is located near the booming Horn River gas fields, said industry in that area has 20 long-term water licence applications before the B.C. government. If those licences are approved, she said, it would authorize industry to withdraw “tens of billions of litres of water annually” for up to 40 years, for use in fracking operations.
“We are extremely concerned about a massive giveaway of water from our rivers and lakes, without any credible process identifying what the long-term impacts will be,” she said.
Ms. Wildeman is upset with a government consultation process “that has stalled,” and she said the band is demanding five conditions be met before any new water licences are approved.
She said the band wants baseline environmental studies done before licences are issued; multi-year development plans filed in advance to identify proposed water sources, gas-well sites, roads and camps; environmental plans that cap water withdrawals at ecologically acceptable levels; protection of culturally significant land and water resources, and an agreement that environmental impact monitoring and enforcement will be done by an independent body.
“Failure to embrace these fundamental reforms will lead to increasing yet avoidable conflict,” Ms. Wildeman said.
Read this story from the Vancouver Sun on BC Hydro’s inability to accurately plan for future energy demands given the enormous potential requirements of proposed Liquefied Natural Gas projects on BC’s coast. (Nov. 19, 2012)
BC Hydro is getting an extension on its mega-plan for new electricity development so it can calculate how a new liquefied natural gas export industry would impact British Columbia’s power resources.
Energy Minister Rich Coleman said Friday that the deadline for Hydro’s Integrated Resource Plan or IRP, which was scheduled to be submitted to his office by next month, has been extended to August 2013 – three months after the next provincial election.
It’s the second delay – the original deadline was December 2011 – and it shows the challenges Hydro faces in developing a long-term electricity outlook amid rapid changes in the North American and global energy sectors.
The IRP is supposed to be a 20-year outlook on B.C.’s electricity needs, and Hydro has been working on it for several years. But just as Hydro released a draft version for public discussion, opportunities for LNG exports began to boom in Asia – particularly after the Fukushima nuclear disaster convinced Japanese regulators to look at other energy sources for electricity generation.
B.C., with vast, untapped natural gas reserves and proximity to Asia, is considered a secure potential supplier to that market.
Many of the world’s largest energy companies have indicated an interest in exporting LNG from B.C., and a half-dozen plants have already been proposed for Kitimat and Prince Rupert.
However, the industry requires substantial amounts of energy to process and compress gas for export – equivalent to at least 20 per cent of B.C.’s present electricity consumption. That demand spike is not factored into Hydro’s draft IRP.
As a result, the IRP was more or less out of date from the day it was released this summer.
Leaders of Fort Nelson First Nation from northeast BC are coming to Vancouver to share their concerns over 20 new long-term water withdrawal licenses the BC Liberal Government is considering issuing for shale gas operations in their traditional territory.
One such license alone – for which natural gas giant Encana is expecting imminent approval – would enable the company to dam and divert up to 3 BILLION litres a year of fresh water from the Fort Nelson River, which is described by elders as the lifeblood of their territory and identified by the community as a cultural protection zone. Under the current Water Act, withdrawal licenses are valid for up to 40 years.
“We are extremely concerned about a massive giveaway of water from our rivers and lakes, without any credible process identifying what the long-term impacts will be on our land, our families and on our community” says Fort Nelson First Nation Chief, Sharleen Wildeman. The chief will lead a 10-person delegation of council members, elders and band staff to Vancouver Tuesday Nov. 13 to take their concerns to the media and public.
The public is invited to attend a town hall dialogue featuring Chief, Council and community members from Fort Nelson First Nation – Tuesday evening at the Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House (800 E. Broadway). Doors open at 6:30 – event runs from 7-9:30 pm.
The evening, which is co-hosted by Council of Canadians and the Wilderness Committee, will also feature a presentation by leading independent water and energy expert Ben Parfitt of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
Encana’s license application, which would involve constructing a 20-metre concrete barrier across the river, is just one of 20 similar applications throughout the region, which could ultimately represent over a trillion litres of fresh water being diverted to shale gas production in the long-term. According to community representatives, “The water will be permanently withdrawn and mixed with highly toxic chemicals for shale gas extraction. Ultimately the majority of the water will be disposed of via ‘deep oilfield injection’.”
They also point out that Fort Nelson First Nation has worked for years with the natural gas industry and government to provide economic opportunities for it members and the entire province through responsible resource development. But the plan to issue these water licenses has forced the community to draw a line in the sand. After pursuing every other avenue available to it – including repeated efforts to reach out to the Province, which have gone ignored – the community feels it must now appeal to the public for support to put a stop to this plan and ensure the public and First Nations are properly consulted in the development of a responsible water management plan.
They insist that plan must include a comprehensive suite of safeguards for water – such as adequate baseline studies, multi-year development plans submitted by industry, environmental and industry monitoring, cumulative impacts assessment, and the ability to designate culturally significant land and water resources as off-limits to development.
To learn more on this important topic and find out how you can get involved, come be a part of the discussion with Fort Nelson First Nation and independent water and energy experts this Tuesday evening at Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House.
My colleague, Damien Gillis, has been doing some superb work on “fracking” and I enter the discussion with considerable temerity. He is, after all, the brains and filmmaker of the organization and I the mere mouth.
It has seemed to me that we are moving – indeed may have already moved – away from the time when we were all opposed to fossil fuels in any form. The provincial government, for example, supported the so-called “run of river” (better described as “ruin of river”) projects by dumping all over using natural gas for power, even for the Burrard Thermal Plant, which is occasionally used by BC Hydro to shore up power in low water and extreme demand conditions.
In a breathtaking turnaround, Premier Clark has decided that when natural gas power is used to concentrate natural gas into a liquefied form it is no longer a nasty old fossil fuel.
Now, as if a magic wand had been waved, gas from fracking – extracting it from shale rock by using highly powered water pumps, laced with highly toxic chemicals – is a wonderful idea.
To the utter disbelief of many, NDP energy critic John Horgan agrees!
This seems to me to be the classic way we do things – accept big business policy, let them get it firmly in place, organizing delivery to export sites to deliver to offshore customers, then hesitantly ask questions.
The Liberals I can understand. They run all policy by the Fraser Institute then its huckelty buck and away they go!
The environment only matters if it costs votes and it’s here the Clark government are acting on the correct assumption that the NDP doesn’t ask questions for they fear the taunt, “are you against everything?” This causes an immediate retreat into the coward’s corner such that they abandon their duty to hold government’s feet to the fire.
Let me pose two questions to the NDP.
Given the abundance of shale gas all around the world, is there not a real risk that the price of gas won’t permit us to export at a profit? Largely due to this recent glut of shale gas, natural gas prices are down and predicted to go lower. Under this regime, how can any government support such idiocy?
I’ll give you a hint, Mr. Dix and Mr. Horgan, of what you’ll see in the 2013 BC budget – hundreds of millions of dollars counted as tax receipts from thus enhanced gas industry. That will get Premier Photo–Op just what she needs for the election – the promise of huge revenues permitting them to balance their budget. Money on the come that will never come, just like the 2009 Liberal Budget which came in a little short…like $2 BILLION short.
To put it bluntly, they will project income that won’t materialize and like Charlie Brown and Lucy with the football – you never learn – you’re about to play the same game again! Moreover, you’re scared to ask the important questions for fear of being cast as “anti-business” or “anti-progress”.
Now don’t tell us that industry isn’t dumb enough to make huge investments when faced by huge losses. They can be and often are damned fools, pushed on by the momentum of old decisions they dare not abandon but, like Mr. Micawber, hope that “something will turn up”…Just like it did for the auto industry in 2011 when the government bailed them out.
Unfashionable though it seems to be in NDP circles these days, shouldn’t the Opposition be worried about environmental and safety concerns?
LNG has a good safety record except that when they have a problem it’s a huge one! Shouldn’t the good burghers of Prince Rupert and Kitimat have the NDP (forget the governments) and the Green Party be able to assure them that LNG plants in their midst is a safe plan? Can the NDP and Greens give that support? If they can, how come they were so against the proposed LNG plant in Texada Island a few years ago? Have things changed? Is it possible that the only thing that has changed is that the NDP might become government as long as they play their cards very carefully?
On the question of natural gas pipelines, is the NDP saying that no concerns should be raised, even though some local First Nations are starting to raise hell?
Rather than look at fracking not just as an environmental matter, what about safety?
Is there an increased chance of earthquakes? Obviously, if you dig a tunnel, you can be pretty sure it will eventually collapse – the casing for these bore holes can’t last forever. What impacts can this have?
And what about the water, contaminated with chemicals? Where does it go? Into the water table? Into our drinking water? Tell us, Mr. Dix and Mr. Horgan, again (I won’t trouble governments since they couldn’t care less), are you satisfied with corporate assurances on this matter? Why would they be any more caring on this issue than they are on others?
Now the environment.
How much fossil fuel will be burned as the energy to capture the fossil fuel from the fracking process? Yes, we will use energy to extract energy which we will then use more energy for to send it to customers! If we are afraid of the impact on the environment of the Burrard Thermal Plant, surely we must be very worried indeed about burning gas to mine gas and process.
Is Site C not now going to be used to create power so that industry can use that at a very cheap price to get at the fracked gas? Doesn’t this mean that we will flood more land to sell power cheaply to those who will use this cheap energy to turn into profits from the fossil fuels extracted by fracking?
Come to think of it, Mr. Dix and Mr. Horgan, let me pose the following propositions, not saying they are accurate but putting the onus on you and your corporate friends to show me I’m wrong. Let’s use the precautionary principle here:
1. Liquified natural gas (LNG) is very dangerous in the liquification process, the moving process and simply in storage. Your comments?
2. There is relatively little revenue to the province under the very best of circumstances – If you agree, why are you supporting LNG and if you disagree, let’s have your figures.
3. The likelihood is that the worldwide price for natural gas is dropping and will continue to drop, which will bring pressure on governments to subsidize and indeed bail out gas companies as happened with the automobile industry. If you disagree, why? If you agree, are you prepared to spend BC taxes one more time to bail out industry?
4. There is evidence of fracking leads to gas and other chemicals getting into groundwater thence into domestic water. What evidence do you have to deny this?
5. There is clear evidence of fracking causing earthquakes – what do you say to this?
6. Cheap power from Site C will subsidize gas companies in the fracking process – what say you to that?
7 Because of Site C, millions of hectares of farmland and grazing land will be lost – why should the people of BC make this sacrifice so that you can mine gas?
Then, gentlemen, this question: If BC has this huge capacity to make money, why are we liquefying it and sending it abroad when we could have all this cheap power for here at home? To keep our domestic energy costs low and make our industries more competitive?
I and the readers of The Common Sense Canadian – indeed all British Columbians await in the hopes that as an opposition party hoping to win government, you will favour us with an early reply.
Or is it, God forbid, that winning the next election is more important than an informed citizenry?
The Harper Government plans to further roll back the historic Navigable Waters Protection Act in this year’s omnibus budget bill. The new proposed changes to the Act follow serious cuts made in the 2009 budget, which included eliminating most environmental assessments based on navigable waters triggers and setting up a two-tier system separating waterways deemed worthy of protection from the vast majority which are not.
These new changes go even further. Based on the amendments included in this year’s 443-page budget bill, just 62 rivers and 97 lakes would enjoy the protection of the newly named Navigation Protection Act.
The Government isn’t hiding its intention with these changes, as Minister of Transportation Denis Lebel noted yesterday they could eliminate red tape for companies seeking to build mining and energy projects.
On CBC’s Power and Politics yesterday, Conservative pundit Tom Flanagan argued the new changes revert to the original spirit of the Act at its inception in 1882, namely to protect commercial navigation in major waterways, such as the St. Lawrence Seaway. But the principles upon which the Canadian Navigable Waters Protection Act were founded date back much further, to the Maga Carta and even Roman laws.
The Act historically balanced the right of navigation with rights to obstruct navigation through projects like bridges, pipelines, mines and other industrial impacts – but the process involved an environmental assessment which applied to any navigable watercourse. The 2009 amendments to the Act set up the principle of different classes of navigable waters and cut out the environmental assessment process, leaving the decision squarely in the hands of the transport minister. This latest gutting of the Act reduces the list of protected watercourses even further.
Environmental critics have been quick to attack the proposed changes. Keith Stewart of Greenpeace noted, “There are a lot of rivers not on the list that are used by Canadians and need to be protected.”
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May connected the changes to the Act to the long list of cuts to environmental protections and regulatory processes included Harper’s last omnibus budget bill. “The destruction of the Navigable Waters Protection Act and renaming it the Navigation Act is part of a consistent pattern of Stephen Harper trying to remove federal constitutional authorities for the environment.”
First Nations leaders also voiced their concerns. Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, in the midst of the Alberta Tar Sands, had this to say: “I am seriously concerned this is an indication of corruption in our current government. We hope there will be a public outcry that echoes our sentiment. After all, we all share the responsibility to protect mother earth.”
Metro Vancouver is quite far along in a proposal to harness hydro power from our drinking water spillways at the Capilano reservoir’s Cleveland Dam and also at the Seymour reservoir. Although at first glance it might seem like a good idea, this plan introduces a new and potentially competing factor affecting the allocation of our local water supply.
The wisdom of this proposed endeavour is questionable given the growing risks of unpredictable climate change, environmentally intrusive construction, the involvement of private interests in a precious public asset, plus concerns about actual rather than theoretical economic viability.
Residents of Metro Van would care if they knew
The allocation and treatment of drinking water is a topic about which the public is increasingly concerned and passionate. However, residents of Metro Vancouver are virtually unaware of this proposal which was recently unanimously endorsed (September 2012) by the Board overseeing the project.
Earlier hydro power proposal shot down
This is not the first time hydro power generation from our water spills has been proposed. After serious consideration, a similar proposal was rejected some years ago.
Opportunity for public input poorly advertised
Metro Vancouver is required to consult with the public about this proposal. Appallingly, a ‘public consultation’ held on October 10, 2012 was attended by less than 50 members of the public. This was surely not an indication of lack of public interest. Rather, it indicates that ineffective and antiquated methods were used for announcing this opportunity for public input.
What you can do
This project is called the Joint Water Use Plan for the Capilano and Seymour watersheds (JWUP).
It has serious implications regarding the future use of our local water supplies and public funds.
Effective consultation with the public is needed.
You can find out more about it here.
You can submit official feedback by October 19, 2012 here.
You can tell Metro Vancouver what you think about this JWUP proposal by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mary Johnston represents watermatters, a Vancouver-based business specializing in water treatment equipment
The following is the second half of the introduction to Damien Gillis’ multi-part series, “Canada’s Carbon Corridor” – read part 1 here.
In part 1 of this introduction to what my colleagues and I have termed “Canada’s Carbon Corridor” – an interconnected web of major oil, gas, coal, mining and hydroelectric projects across northern BC and Alberta – I traced the first half of a recent journey by the team producing the documentary Fractured Land, of which I am the co-director. We began our trip amidst proposed coal mines and Site C Dam on the Peace River and through the heart of natural gas “fracking” operations in northeast BC, winding up at Liard Hot Springs.
From there, after passing briefly into the Yukon via the Alaska Highway, we turned south and headed for Tahltan country in northwest BC. There, we spent four days investigating proposed mining projects and more unconventional gas – this time Shell’s plans to develop coal bed methane in the Sacred Headwaters, the birthplace of three vital arteries for the province, the Skeena, Nass and Stikine Rivers.
We spent one day with Wade Davis, National Geogrpahic Explorer-in-Residence and recent author of the book Sacred Headwaters, and the rest of our time with a number of First Nations who have put themselves on the line to block coal bed methane and mines like Imperial Metals’ proposed Red Chris.
This particular project would involve a massive mountaintop removal mine for gold and copper, amid the continent’s largest population of Stone’s Sheep. As such, it has ignited much local opposition. But we also learned that there are many members of the various Tahltan communities who are in favour of this and other mines for the jobs and economic opportunities they promise. This conflict will likely play out for some time to come in these communities, though the tide may be turning against Red Chris for a number of reasons, which I’ll get into in a future chapter of this series.
From the Sacred Headwaters, we travelled south to Kitimat, documenting along the way the construction of the Northwest Transmission Line. This $400 million project is designed to plug BC’s electrical grid into the region in order to power these mining projects – of which Red Chris is but one of many. (Which is why it’s odd that a significant portion of the line’s funding came by way of a federal “green energy” fund!). The transmission line is yet another connection between northwest BC and the proposed Site C Dam in the territory of our central character Caleb Behn – which our provincial government justifies with the contention it is needed to provide power to gas and mining operations.
We were all alarmed at the pace of development of the transmission corridor, with upwards of ten different crews working simultaneously to clear sections of the line – carving a 100 or so meter-wide swath through spectacular mountain valleys. Fifty-foot tall teepees of logged trees rim the highway for long stretches, waiting to be burned.
In Kitimat, we met with former Haisla elected chief and recent president of the Coastal First Nations, Gerald Amos, to get a look at the LNG plants proposed and under construction in his territory, along the Douglas Channel. Gerald and his wife graciously took us out on their boat to show us the three main proposed projects – one led by Shell, with partners Korea Gas Corporation, Mitsubishi Corporation and PetroChina Company Limited; another by a consortium of Encana, Apache Canada and Enron Oil and Gas (known as Kitimat LNG); and the third a joint venture in which the Haisla Nation itself is a partner. (It should be noted there are as many as eight LNG plans for Kitimat, but these three would appear to be the most serious and viable).
Only the Kitimat LNG project is under initial construction – clearing the banks of the channel of trees and brush – though its completion has been pushed back by a year, as the consortium has yet to sign any contracts for the product.
Meanwhile, the Haisla just signed a deal with the province to expedite their plant. While his elected leadership is moving quickly forward with its plans to welcome LNG into their territory, Gerald was eager to hear from Caleb about how these decisions will affect his people at the other end of the pipeline. This is some of the much-needed dialogue currently missing around these issues, which we hope our project will continue to foster.
While the Haisla have led the battle against the proposed Enbridge pipeline on their lands and supertankers in their waters, natural gas has proven a different story. Deals signed by the Haisla and the Carrier-Sekani Tribal Council, which provides political and technical support to eight member First Nations in the northern BC interior, appear to have been done with far less communication with other First Nations and the public than that which surrounded Enbridge.
We learned the Carrier-Sekani signed last year a 25-year deal estimated to be worth over $500 million in shared revenue and job training benefits with the proponents of the Pacific Trails Pipeline, which would carry fracked northeast BC gas from a junction point at Summit Lake, north of Prince George, to Kitimat, along virtually the identical right-of-way as the proposed Enbridge Pipeline.
On that note, during one of our final stops on the trip, we visited the grassroots resistance camp on the Morice River, southwest of Houston, where members of one clan of the Wetsu’et’en First Nations, the Unist’ot’en, have constructed and are occupying a cabin directly in the path of the proposed Pacific Trails Pipeline. But as they pointed out to us, they’re not opposed to just one pipeline, rather as many as eight different ones, each proposed to pass through essentially the same energy corridor:
- Enbridge’s twin lines – one for diluted bitumen, the other for condensate
- Kinder Morgan’s “Rearguard” bitumen pipeline to Kitimat – introduced last year to shareholders as a backup plan to the controversial Enbridge Northern Gateway line and to Kinder’s own plans to twin its existing Trans Mountain Pipeline to Vancouver (the Unist’ot’en camp is prepared for this line to include a twin condensate line as Enbridge is proposing)
- Pembina Pipelines has a plan – temporarily shelved for “commercial uncertainties” – to run a condensate line from Kitimat to Summit Lake (the Unist’ot’en camp is bracing for this plan to come to the fore again should Enbridge be rejected, and for the possibility it too will include a bitumen line)
- The Pacific Trails gas pipeline (already approved by the province, along with the related LNG plant in Kitimat)
- Shell Canada and its Asian partners’ gas pipeline from northeast BC to their proposed LNG facility in Kitimat (Shell has already selected TransCanada Pipelines to build this line)
Moreover, Spectra Energy recently announced plans to run a gas line to Prince Rupert, north of Kitimat, to connect to their own proposed LNG plant and tankers there.
Is this somehow a conspiracy theory? Hardly. I reported in The Common Sense Canadian over a year ago that Enbridge CEO Pat Daniel has publicly expressed interest in exploiting pipeline “right-of-way synergies”, in building both its twin pipelines and the Pacific Trails gas line together. Enbridge also bought Encana’s controlling stake in the Cabin Gas Plant in Northeast BC last year. And the proposed routes of the above pipelines essentially stack on top of each other for long stretches.
My concern is that while all this attention is being payed to Enbridge, virtually no one – amongst First Nations, the conservation community, or the political opposition (the NDP has publicly supported fracking, the Pacific Trails Pipeline and LNG projects in Kitimat and is at best on the fence about Site C Dam) – is talking about this larger energy corridor, of which Enbridge is merely one small piece.
The Pacific Trails line is approved and the companies are into pre-construction work already. Once the corridor is logged and cleared, it will be far more difficult to stop any one, let alone all of these pipelines and the development to which they connect.
From Site C Dam, powering gas and mining operations, to expanded fracking, which connects to the Alberta Tar Sands through natural gas and condensate, to oil and gas pipelines to our coast and the tankers that would transit our waters carrying these fossil fuels – bitumen, LNG, coal – to new markets in Asia, this is a big deal. The biggest, by far, that this province has ever seen in 150 years of colonial establishment.
It’s time we expand our horizons and broaden our discussion beyond Enbridge – and our team hopes our Fractured Land film project and subsequent columns in this series will act as a catalyst for that much-needed dialogue.
Thanks to Rivers Without Borders for their support with this portion of our recent filming tour for Fractured Land.
Watch for part 3 of the “Canada’s Carbon Corridor” series on this past week’s “Keepers of the Water” conference in Fort Nelson.
Read this op-ed in the Vancouver Sun by Gwen Barlee of the Wilderness Committee, pulling back the ‘green cloak’ that masks the economically and environmentally destructive nature of private river diversion projects in BC. (Sept. 17, 2012)
When I was growing up my mother used to warn me to look out for a wolf in sheep’s clothing. What she meant was to be cautious about people and situations that are not what they seem. This idiom aptly applies to the issue of independent power projects (IPPs) in British Columbia.
At first blush IPPs, notably river diversion projects, seem like a visionary and green solution to producing low carbon energy. Indeed, this is what the Wilderness Committee, a BC-based environmental organization, first thought when we were introduced to the concept a decade ago, and it is what the IPP industry vigorously advocates, as evidenced in Paul Kariya’s commentary to The Vancouver Sun on September 3rd.
Unfortunately, the reality is far different.
History shows that IPPs took root in BC when the provincial government introduced an energy policy in 2002 which forbade BC Hydro from producing new sources of hydroelectricity. This led to over 800 creeks, rivers and even lakes being “staked” by private power companies who were eager to capitalize on the rich electricity contracts BC Hydro was forced to issue. The move to stimulate IPPs in BC had nothing to do with tackling climate change, as the BC government at that time actively opposed the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol. Instead, it had to do with electricity privatization and deregulation – twin concepts sweeping North America at the time.
Today, because of a horribly misguided energy policy, BC Hydro is now on the hook for over $50 billion – yes, billion – in sweetheart energy purchase agreements to IPPs. It is important to remember that IPP electricity produced here was never meant for BC. It was slated for California, except California doesn’t consider river-diversion projects to be green and it won’t pay a premium for the power.
So here we sit, with a publicly-owned utility saddled with an enormous debt for power we don’t need. BC Hydro, once the envy of North America for providing our province with reliable low-carbon electricity, now hovers on the edge of bankruptcy unless it can pass on its considerable debt to ratepayers.
The Valhalla Wilderness Society of the Kootenays is urging citizens to send a message today to the provincial government in opposition of a proposed private power project on the spectacular Incomappleux river.
The province’s Integrated Land Management Bureau (ILMB) is accepting comments from the public until midnight tonight (Sept. 20) on private power titan TranAlta’s application to carry out potentially damaging feasibility studies for a proposed private river diversion project on the Incomappleux, considered one of BC’s most intact old growth rainforest valleys.
According to Valhalla:
The upper Incomappleux River and its very ancient rainforest are the gems of the Selkirk Mountain Caribou Park Proposal.
The valley has been severely logged for a major part of its length. But the logging stopped before the end of the forest, leaving behind a five-kilometre stretch of river with very rare valley-bottom Inland Temperate Rainforest, with trees up to four metres in diameter and 1,800 years old. Scientists say this forest could have been growing undisturbed since the last ice age. It is part of a 17-kilometre stretch of wild river running through intact wilderness adjacent to Glacier National Park.
This now famous valley has drawn scientists from five countries to study the biodiversity of its ancient rainforest and its extensive wetland. They have found numerous rare species of lichens, mushrooms, snails and plants including a number of red- and blue-listed species.
The organization is concerned that even “feasibility studies” would have a detrimental impact on the highly sensitive and rare ecosystem. “The studies alone will include drilling, and possibly road building and cutting down trees to bring in heavy equipment. This will be a huge investment on the part of the proponent for a development that would then be leverage to get the IPP approved.”
Because the proposed generating capacity of this river diversion project, at 45 Megawatts, falls below the 50 Megawatt threshold, it will not require an environmental assessment from the province.
Some of the key environmental concerns from the project include the diversion of a significant amount of water from the river for an 8.8 km stretch, through prime Grizzly habitat, industrial roads being constructed on the edge of Glacier National Park, and a 75 km transmission line, carved through prime old-growth forest.
Private power projects have been thoroughly criticized in these pages for both serious environmental problems, thoroughly demonstrated by evidence, and for their lack of financial sense for BC taxpayers and hydro ratepayers.
Concerned citizens can register their comments with the ILMB by midnight tonight through their online form.