Tell DFO to Save Kokish River Steelhead from Proposed Private Power Project


These opening words from Gwen Barlee of the Wilderness Committee which cry out (in my mind at any rate for I don’t speak for the W.C. which certainly doesn’t need my help) for the highest manifestation of protest including civil disobedience:

Tucked away in the wild of northern Vancouver Island, the Kokish River is a treasure for fishers and wilderness lovers alike.

The Kokish River, located 15 km east of Port McNeill on northern Vancouver Island, is threatened by a proposed 45 megawatt hydropower project. The river is renowned for its high fish values including endangered summer and winter runs of steelhead.

Thus has begun yet another rape of a river without any public process at all. The deal requires approval from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, which is why the Wilderness Committee is calling on citizens to write to them and demand they reject this project that would unquestionably damage important fish habitat.
The proposal is to divert the river through 9 kms of pipe through the generators then back into the river. This river has 2 steelhead runs and all 5 species of Pacific salmon.
Back to Ms. Barlee:
Kwagis Power, owned by Brookfield Renewable Power and the Namgis First Nation, has applied to dam and divert the 11 km river into a 9 km pipe. The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) considers the Kokish to be a high-value river with a sensitive fish population.

The Kokish is a fish-rich river. In addition to the steelhead populations, it is home to five species of wild salmon, coastal cutthroat trout and Dolly Varden.
This is an outrage and it must be stopped.
Let’s remind ourselves what this means.

In the environmental sense, the river will no longer be the home and breeding point for the salmon and trout which rely upon this river. How the hell can you expect anything else to happen? It is indeed “common sense”!

What also happens is the slow death of the river and its ecology which depend upon the fish in the river for its own survival.

On the fiscal side, here is yet another nail in the BC Hydro coffin. It will be required to take this power during the spring run-off when BC Hydro doesn’t need the power, at double+ what it’s worth in the market or use it at many times over what BC Hydro can make for themselves!
Adrian Dix now has a right, and indeed a duty, to speak out loudly and clearly that he and his party condemn this project and that if elected, he will cancel this deal forthwith.
As for the premier and her outfit – who have already approved the project without any public consultation – this demonstrates, as if it were needed, her appalling ignorance of environmental and, indeed, fiscal matters. It also indicates the premier’s lack of courage – she evidently wants no controversial matters to spoil her day, assuming that if she just sticks to photo opportunities, her admitted good looks will sway the voters.

Now she gives us all the finger as she hands over yet another of our rivers to her corporate supporters. (I suppose we should be comforted in the knowledge that the Vancouver Board of Trade always gives her a standing ovation.)

This government has squandered at least 3 billion dollars, tripled our provincial debt and is dumb enough to cost the province $35 million dollars by refusing that sum from Telus who offered that if the dome was called Telus Field.

It has not just shown no interest in the environment, it has encouraged those who would pillage it for profit, to fill their boots.
It has driven BC Hydro into what would be bankruptcy in the private sector and now strikes yet another blow to it by adding the Kokish to the ecological disasters which have been the hallmark of the Campbell/Clark government.
More than fifty organizations and individuals – including NHL star Willie Mitchell and yours truly – have signed onto the Wilderness Committee’s letter calling for DFO to reject the project. They clearly believe that if the public adds its voice to the chorus, there is a real opportunity to make DFO do the right thing.


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

7 thoughts on “Tell DFO to Save Kokish River Steelhead from Proposed Private Power Project

  1. David, the Mid-Columbia spot market price for electricity this past week averaged $17.50-23.25 for peak price and $12-21 for off-peak. Prices have typically ranged in the $30 region for the past several years. The days of $77/MWh are long gone. You conveniently ignore the fact much of this private river power becomes available during the spring freshet when neither we nor our neighbours need it, forcing us to dump it at a loss. Don’t take my word for it, though – just look at the statements of Hydro’s own CEO before he quit: …And there’s nothing “green” about private river power, David. You must not read the papers. We destroy our rivers, subsidize private power producers with our skyrocketing power bills, and we don’t replace one iota of coal fired power in the process. If we had agreements in place to shut down coal fired or gas fired plants in Alberta and Washington as we bring new private power projects on line your argument might have a grain of truth to it, but that’s simply not the case.

  2. Hugh says BC Hydro will be a net exporter in fiscal 2012. This is true and BC Hydro will be exporting 4,000 GWh or more of power. This is due to the favorable water conditions and the late summer last year.

    BC Hydro has been a net importer of power in 9 of the past 11 years. Only one year (2008) was BC Hydro a net exporter.

    In the past 11 years, BC Hydro has spent a net $2.3 billion dollars of ratepayer money for power imports from the US and Alberta. The average price is $77 a MWh.

    $2.3 billion dollars of BC capital and all the jobs it could have produced has been sent abroad to import dirty coal and gas fired GHG belching American and Albertan power. We helped Americans build and maintain dirty coal fired plants and create top paying jobs there. There was no tax benefit for the province doing this.

    It is time to stop importing expensive dirty power, and keep the capital at home. Private run of river power not only is clean and green, but is cheaper than imported power. Private run of river power is $60 to $70 a MWh and results in the creation of large number of jobs both at time of construction and afterwards. Private run of river power pays huge amount of taxes.

  3. This project will never receive its water license. Much ado about nothing.

    Even if it did, it will divert so little water that it surely will be uneconomical to build.

    Projects like this should be banned from the get go. What is the point on spending $10 million on an environmental assessment just to find out you have masses of salmon and steelhead?

    Brookfield Power has no idea how to build an environment friendly run of river power plant.

  4. enter your message here…Every bit of old growth no matter how small must be protected now. No one anywhere absolutely should touch it. I am putting mulch on for some rhododendrons and am disturbed as I realize it is the make up of an old growth canopy as it is composed of mountain hemlock and beautiful old man’s beard lichen. I know as a west coast person that you do not replace this for a long time. Let’s not be so stupid. Vancouver Island is being exploited in every aspect. All people thinking must change. At the moment the outlook is very myopic and self concerned. All the best to the dear generous planet. Josephine Fletcher

  5. Wow, another Native group selling out their environment and heritage. How very sad!
    I went to both websites listed above.
    Replace and supplement historically bad logging practices with modern destructive “green” technology? Why?
    I have tremendous respect for the Indigenous people of BC and Canada, but this is clearly not the way to respect “Mother Earth”!
    Greg Shea (Lake Cowichan)

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