Glacier/Howser private power project

Cancellation of Private Power Project in Kootenays a Victory for Citizens, Bull Trout


There is good news in the environment field and, for some reason the Fraser Institute-driven Vancouver Sun won’t talk about it – nor will the Province. The reason they won’t?

Because it is a triumph of the people over monetary and Establishment interests.

Private power producer AXOR, under subsidiary Purcell Green Power, planned to dam and divert Glacier and Howser Creeks in the Purcell Wilderness in the Kootenays, along with two other nearby rivers. Well, to the surprise of many, the Environmental Assessment Office has terminated the Environmental Assessment of the project, noting the company has failed to address concerns about fish and other questions raised by the public.

What does this mean?

Montreal based Axor must go right back to square one if it wants another chance and I find it difficult to believe that with all they have sunk into this project they would want to do it all over again.

Damien and I spent time in Nelson speaking against this project but if you think this decision was because of us – think again and stay with me.

It was, I think, the last public hearing I attended when the company sent a suit with an arrogance that stank the joint out as he talked down to the audience as if they were simple minded yokels.

Damien and I sensed that after that meeting that this application might be in trouble.

It was in trouble and all the credit goes to the citizens who never quit the fight.

It came to a head when the company, required to hold public meetings, didn’t choose Nelson for the site but Kaslo, a town with about 1,000 residents that was difficult for many to access. That only angered and energized the public and over 1,100 people went to the hearing, more than the entire population of Kaslo! (watch video below)

It became clear that the public simply would not tolerate these dams and that they would defy the law and go to prison by the hundreds if it came to that.

The entire population of this province should take heed of this courage, for it shows what can happen if the opposition refuses to buckle under the jackboot of the company and the government.

Here is a second and extremely important aspect of this case which, to my knowledge, has not been noted and should be.

Companies and government have long paid lip service to the proposition that they cannot unduly interfere with “significant” fish values, which has been taken to mean migrating Pacific salmon.

Not, I must point out, that migrating salmon bothered private companies so that they avoided placing their cruel dams where salmon runs did exist – one need only look at the Ashlu River to see how little the corporation/government cared for any aspect of the environment.

Well, the Glacier/Howser rivers have no migrating Pacific salmon, leading Axor to believe that it was a slam dunk.

The assessment folks surprised them for they demanded more information on and wanted to know what would happen to the Bull Trout (actually a char and perhaps the same as Dolly Varden) of no commercial interest and, I believe, about the resident Cutthroat trout (a Pacific salmon, again of no commercial interest).

This creates an entirely new ballgame, for almost every river and stream in the province carries Bull Trout and resident cutthroat and often non-migrating Rainbows.

Does this case create a precedent?

That’s hard to say because no hearing binds a subsequent one. It does create, however, a very substantial new arrow in the quiver of opponents of so-called run-of-river projects and raises another point – if resident fish of no commercial value are to be protected, what about other fauna and flora which depend upon the ecosystem that the river or stream in question supports?

What about the bears and birds; what about the trees and other plants? Are they not important too, just like the resident fish?

The decision by the Environmental Assessment Office has, I should think, sent a message that they are taking the entire river and the ecology it supports as important matters to consider – at least that’s what we all hope.


About Rafe Mair

Rafe Mair, LL.B, LL.D (Hon) a B.C. MLA 1975 to 1981, was Minister of Environment from late 1978 through 1979. In 1981 he left politics for Talk Radio becoming recognized as one of B.C.'s pre-eminent journalists. An avid fly fisherman, he took a special interest in Atlantic salmon farms and private power projects as environmental calamities and became a powerful voice in opposition to them. Rafe is the co-founder of The Common Sense Canadian and writes a regular blog at

2 thoughts on “Cancellation of Private Power Project in Kootenays a Victory for Citizens, Bull Trout

  1. My view of the EAO is that it was a facilitator rather than a regulator/decision maker and that the main (if not the only) reason it terminated the review process was that AXOR told it that it could no longer the numbers go arond and get the necessary financing for it. Remember that the EPA between AXOR and BC Hydro was executed in August 2006, and would have been at prices in the $85/MWh range rather than the most recent round of EPAs which was in the $135/MWh range. I think AXOR will be free to bid the project back to BC Hydro at higher prices in any future call, and if the project is reduced in capacity to less than 50MW it can avoid the EAO process.
    According to BC Hydro’s website the EPA was for 90.5MW and annual energy of 341GWh which suggests a capacity factor of ~43%. One does have to wonder how much “dependable capacity” (the ability to deliver power during 5 peak days) a project called Glacier Creek would be able to deliver. Like most “BC Clean” projects it was (is ) BC Remote, BC Intermittent and BC Expensive. Happy as I feel for the residents of Nelson/Kaslo I cannot help but feel that the big winners here were Hydro’s ratepayers.

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