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Author Topic: Run-of-river power projects breach environment regulations: documents  (Read 6023 times)

Nicole

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http://www.cbc.ca/canada/british-columbia/story/2009/05/06/bc-environmental-inspections-private-power-projects.html

Inspection reports and emails obtained by CBC News show B.C. government officials have raised concerns about environmental infractions during the construction of the rapidly growing number of run-of-river private power projects in the province.

In one email obtained by CBC News, a forestry official involved wrote, "I am becoming increasingly nervous about the lack of attention to the projects."

Last fall, inspectors from the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Forests and Range — who dubbed themselves "strike teams" in their internal emails — dropped in on the construction sites of several private run-of-river hydro projects.

The eventual reports by the strike team obtained by CBC News through a Freedom of Information Act request noted at four sites, the inspectors found:

    * Sloppy construction that could damage streams.
    * Overcutting old-growth forest.
    * Inadequate sewage treatment at work camps.
    * Construction during bird breeding season.
    * Replanting with non-native species.

Violations not serious, says company

Other email obtained by CBC News shows that at the time of the inspections, the company behind the projects complained in several emails that the scrutiny was redundant and interfered with construction.

When interviewed by CBC News, Jackie Hamilton, a vice-president with Cloudworks Energy, stood by her complaint.

"You're going to find the odd thing. I don't think they found serious issues, and of course any issues they found were immediately fixed," said Hamilton.

Hamilton even questioned the use of the term strike team, saying, "It implied that somehow we were doing something that needed disciplining."

But email also showed inspection officials had little faith in Kiewit, the construction company hired by Cloudworks to build the projects, saying it had a reputation for failing to comply with regulations.
Environmentalists concerned by findings

The projects were designed to generate electricity on remote creeks and rivers, without the large environmental footprint of conventional hydroelectric dams, by drawing power from seasonal flows.

But the projects and inspection results are also generating a lot of debate about their environmental impacts and benefits, particularly their effect on salmon runs, making them a key issue during the provincial election campaign.

Marvin Rosenau, a former senior fisheries biologist with the B.C. government, said while the issues may seem minor, they trigger alarm bells.

"It says to me they're cavalier about how they do business — 'We're a powerful industry there. The rules don't quite apply to us like everybody else. We can just go ahead and do whatever we want','" said Rosenau.

Gwen Barlee, a policy director with the Wilderness Committee, said the reports suggest the environmental impact of private power is being kept from the public.

"That's consistent with what the Wilderness Committee has heard, that there's corners being cut and it appears from the documents [acquired by CBC] there's been ongoing problems," said Barlee.

"I think it's kind of sad that we need a strike team for private power projects. It's a reflection on the lack of planning and the fact that these projects are coming on fast and furious," said Barlee.

Government officials involved in the strike teams say they can't discuss what they found until after next week's provincial election.
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chris gadsden

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Thanks Nicole for posting, I hope it makes the TV news as well. Of course this is the same situation we have been faced with on the gravel removal projects on the Fraser River the last few years.

The politicans always say environmental issues are always looked after but we know they are not. Add in the fish farm issue, BC Rail, and the Olympics to name a few one wonders how many other things this government tries to hid from us.

This certainly is more evidence this government does not care as much about the environment as they say they do.

 What good will a strong economy be with lots of money for us all if we destroy the environment in the process?

Novabonker

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And some more damming evidence - Scuse the pun.

http://thetyee.ca/Blogs/TheHook/Environment/2009/05/07/private-power-regulations-document/

B.C.’s powers to protect key wildlife areas have been chiselled away by a government directive intended to placate private power companies, according to two environmental groups.

“What you see is the ministry of environment no longer having the ability to uphold protection of endangered species if it stands in the way of independent power,” said Jessica Clogg, senior counsel for West Coast Environmental Law.

The document in question is a confidential ‘decision note’ signed by environment deputy minister Doug Konkin on March 18, 2009. It appears to remove the authority of the Ministry of Environment to block industrial developments – such as independent power projects (IPPs) – that could impact protected wildlife areas.

The current government has touted IPPs, such as run-of-river hydro projects, as a green source of energy. But many groups fear the private developments destroy river ecologies and encroach on wilderness areas with roads and power lines.

Any IPP capable of generating more than 50 megawatts must be approved by the BC Environmental Assessment Office. Sometimes the projects get approval even though they could impact protected wildlife areas that are home to endangered species.

In those cases, the private company applies to the Ministry of Environment for an exemption to the rules. Previously, it was up to a regional manager to decide whether a project got the go-ahead.

But the March 18 decision note – made public by the Wilderness Committee – suggests the provincial government wants to change the process.

“Government does not want to create a situation where an exemption is withheld after [an environmental assessment] Certificate has been issued,” the decision note reads.

The document recommends that regional managers no longer be given the authority to say ‘no’ to a request for an exemption.

“If a Regional Manager does not wish to issue the exemption it would elevate to the Minister,” it reads. The document argues this option is “likely to be perceived well” by the proponents of industrial developments.

“Behind the scenes, we can see in the language of this thing how the Ministry of Environment seems to be mostly concerned with keeping the private power guys happy,” the Wilderness Committee’s Joe Foy said.

Though Foy was concerned about the document’s implications, he wasn’t sure if its recommendations had actually been implemented. Environment ministry spokesperson Kate Thompson refused to comment on confidential documents.

“All we can deal with as bureaucrats is what’s published and publicly available,” she said. Environment minister Barry Penner did not respond to The Tyee’s phone calls Thursday .
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chris gadsden

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Private power industry is booming in B.C., but is that a good thing?
 
Stock prices are soaring, but some say run-of-river hydro isn't clean
 
By Sam Cooper, The ProvinceJune 7, 2009 7:15 PMComments (21)
  StoryPhotos ( 1 )

  Plutonic Power Corporation's Toba Valley project gets under way. Plutonic's run-of-river project near Bute Inlet has environmentalists screaming about 'pristine wilderness' being despoiled and 17 streams and rivers being muddied.Photograph by: Jason Payne, The Province, file, The ProvinceGordon Campbell wasn't kidding when he warned that the future of B.C. was at stake in the last election -- or at least its energy future.

The fate of a booming clean-energy industry worth up to $14-billion hung in the balance as taxpayers headed to the polls May 12.

So did the fate of B.C. Hydro. And the power bills almost everyone pays each month.

During the campaign, the NDP had promised to slap a moratorium on private-sector run-of-river power companies if they won.

A Liberal win would mean full-steam ahead for companies like Plutonic Power Corporation, purveyors of a controversial $4-billion, 1,027-megawatt proposal on the Bute Inlet north of Powell River that has environmentalists screaming about "pristine wilderness" being despoiled and 17 streams and rivers being muddied.

With Gordon Campbell's Liberal victory, Plutonic stock exploded for a 21-per-cent gain on the post-election morning of May 13, reaching market capitalization of about $170 million. Company shares had surged from a low of $2.08 on May 1 to a high of $3.81.

One Plutonic shareholder on the investor website Stockhouse.com summed the action up like this: "Good to see BC stays Liberal, dam tree hugging Ndp'ers are bad for business . . . lol." So were they popping champagne corks at Plutonic's Vancouver headquarters on May 13 as company stock rocked? "No," spokesperson Elisha McCallum says flatly.

McCallum is one of a number of ex-B.C. Hydro employees and former high-level Liberal party staffers now working for Plutonic.

"We were hopeful [for a Liberal win] and very supportive of the party," she acknowledged last week. "There was a sense of relief the day after the election." That relief was shared by the entire industry, says Steve Davis, head of the Independent Power Producers Association of B.C., which represents 320 IPPs.

With the Liberal win and a pending B.C. Hydro energy-acquisition plan due in July, there was a potential for $5 billion in direct IPP investment -- on top of $5 billion for existing projects and further billions in indirect investment, Davis told The Province.

NDP energy critic John Horgan says the biggest election victory May 12 didn't go to Gordon Campbell, star rookie Liberal MLA Kash Heed or even upset Independent winner Vicki Huntington.

"It [went to] Plutonic," Horgan said. "Now they're set to go into Bute Inlet and do a $4 billion project that will lead to billions in revenue -- and all for stakeholders and Liberal insiders."

Project critics like the Raincoast Conservation Society's Chris Genovali say that with cumulative damage, the Bute proposal could be as intrusive as a giant dam.

But as McCallum and industry supporters point out, environmentalists don't all oppose the projects. Some prominent voices, such as Tzeporah Berman of PowerUP Canada, have come out in support of IPP projects as a valuable expansion in renewable power.

Still, NDP environment critic Shane Simpson insists the Liberal IPP push is unleashing "a gold-rush mentality."

"There is phenomenal wealth to be made and the provincial government is prepared to set aside the environment," Simpson says.

Dr. John Nyboer, a Simon Fraser University renewable-energy and climate-change expert, says he wouldn't label B.C.'s sprouting IPP industry an "exorbitant" gold rush -- but he notes that as in any gold rush, anyone can try to hop aboard the IPP gravy train.

"It's hard to keep track of how many IPPs there are in B.C.," Nyboer says. "You can put a single solar-power cell on the roof and register [as an IPP]."

Nyboer says investment in renewable energy has skyrocketed in the last 10 years, and especially since 2006 in B.C.

But alternative-energy sources cost more to develop than traditional sources, so hydro ratepayers pay tariffs to "level the playing field."

Nyboer points to Germany, a world leader in IPP development that also tops Europe for electricity prices. "Going renewable is an investment," he says. "It may serve Germany well, depending on what you see happening with tomorrow's energy supply."

In other words, if world governments unify for tough carbon-emission restrictions, renewable energy leaders like Germany and B.C. could corner power markets.

But with the current global economic slump, B.C.'s government may have locked 20- to 40-year IPP energy purchase agreements (EPAs) in too high, says Horgan.

"B.C. Hydro recognizes the industrial load is going in the toilet," he says. "Every time a mill closes, energy demand decreases."

Horgan says B.C. ratepayers are already on the hook for about $30 billion in "unfunded liabilities" in EPAs.

In the worst-case scenario, B.C. Hydro will "be forced" to buy too much electricity from IPPs at premiums of up to $125 a megawatt, when they can produce it for $50 a megawatt. Demand will continue to decrease and power will be dumped to the U.S. for $50 or less a megawatt.

"Why buy high and sell low?" Horgan says. "If the trend line continues, the costs to ratepayers will be enormous."

B.C. Hydro could even go under, he warns.

"The shareholders in these IPP companies will be rubbing their hands together -- and people with electric heat are going to be rubbing their hands to stay warm, because they won't be able to heat their homes."

Blair Lekstrom, B.C.'s Minister of Energy and Mines, disputes the NDP's numbers. He says he believes the existing IPP contract commitment for B.C. ratepayers is about $21 billion.

But he admits that number could jump to as much as $60 billion with B.C. Hydro decisions due this summer.

E-mail reporter Sam Cooper at scooper@theprovince.com

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Political and industry insiders are jumping ship to IPPs
 
B.C. Liberals, Hydro personnel head up independent firms
 
By Sam Cooper, The ProvinceJune 7, 2009
 
Are B.C. Liberals and independent power producers too cozy? Consider these facts and figures.

Since Gordon Campbell took power in 2001, IPPs have given his party at least $850,000.

That figure is sure to shoot to more than $1 million when donation records for the May 2009 election are released, says NDP environment critic Shane Simpson.

The Independent Power Producers Association of B.C. says membership jumped from about 20 companies in 2001 to 320 in 2009.

And as the number of IPPs and lucrative B.C. Hydro "energy-purchase agreement" contracts mounts under Campbell's watch, boardroom and staff lists of B.C.'s biggest IPPs increasingly resemble alumni associations of B.C. Liberal and B.C. Hydro grads.

No company has scooped more Liberal insiders than Plutonic Power Corporation, a B.C. run-of-river upstart now partnered with U.S. giant General Electric.

Here are some of the company's executive B.C. Liberal grads: Tom Syer (former deputy chief of staff to Premier Gordon Campbell), Dave Cyr (former aide to Mike de Jong, then Liberal minister of aboriginal relations), Bill Irwin, (former ministry of tourism staffer) and Robert Poore (former executive assistant to then-revenue minister Rick Thorpe).

Plutonic Power Corporation has donated $99,781 to the B.C. Liberals since 2006, including 2009 donations released to The Province by spokesperson Elisha McCallum.

Individuals from Plutonic have also made donations, with CEO Donald McInnes handing at least $30,000 to the Liberals since 2001.

But hefty donations and legions of former Liberals don't equal government favouritism for Plutonic, McCallum says.

"Our CEO had the vision to find the people with the best skills," McCallum says.

"There is no preferential treatment provided to us. The insinuation that there is some conspiracy theory is ridiculous."

Other insiders who've assumed leadership in the IPP world are: Geoff Plant (former attorney-general, now chair of Renaissance Power); Naikun Wind CEO Paul Taylor (former CEO of ICBC and a deputy finance minister); Stephen Kukucha, president and CEO of Atla Energy (former senior policy adviser for the ministry of environment); Bruce Young (former B.C. Liberal campaign manager, now a director of Atla Energy); Bob Herath (former ministry of the environment staffer now with Syntaris Power); and Alexander Kiess (former project supervisor with B.C. Hydro, now consulting as a project supervisor for Syntaris Power).

In a Province interview, Blair Lekstrom, minister of energy, was asked whether the exodus of Liberal insiders to IPPs might suggest undue influence by the industry.

"I'd take great offence if someone suggested that," he said. "I'm not influenced because of who someone is or where they used to work."

IPPBC head Steve Davis also brushed aside suggestions the government is too cozy with IPPs.

"The protections for the public are huge and already in place," he said.

"Every single [EPA] contract must be reviewed by the B.C. Utilities Commission."

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Support for run-of-river projects runs along party lines
 
NDP fear private power will lead to demise of B.C. Hydro
 
By Sam Cooper, The ProvinceJune 7, 2009
 

  The clean-power industry is booming and B.C. is a world leader.Photograph by: Reuters, The ProvinceIPPs are private power companies that compete to sell energy to B.C. Hydro. Of 48 IPPs currently operating in the province, most are run-of-river. In the future, wind, solar, geothermal and ocean power are expected to join the IPP mix.

Rather than using the giant river dam/reservoirs traditionally used for power generation, run-of-river technology diverts water with smaller blockages, channeling it through pipes, usually over several kilometres, with steep vertical drops. Rushing water shoots through energy-capture turbines before re-entering the river.

Proponents say these "micro-dam" operations reduce environmental impact -- critical to a provincial Liberal government that has called for more and cleaner power in a push to make the province energy self-sufficient by 2016, while also meeting aggressive targets for greenhouse-gas emission reduction.

The Independent Power Producers Association of B.C. (IPPBC) says it now has 320 member companies, up from 22 in May 2001.

There are currently 580 water-licence applications for rivers across the province by IPPs.

The IPPBC says B.C. Hydro has identified 900 small hydro sites for potential development.

IPPs supply power to 500,000 homes in B.C., contributing about 10 per cent of B.C.'s total system capacity, IPPBC says.

B.C. political parties are starkly divided on IPPs, with the NDP calling for a moratorium on run-of-river operations and the Liberals pushing for increased use.

IPPBC head Steve Davis says that within 10 years the B.C. IPP industry could rival provincial resource giants like forestry or mining for market size.

IPP critics say the projects are not as green as some claim, as wilderness is despoiled and wildlife destroyed with construction of service roads, power lines and water pipes.

NDPers charge IPP promotion is a government ploy to privatize B.C. Hydro. But the Liberals say increased competition from IPPs will keep energy costs down and that environmental assessment standards ensure only the best projects move forward.

Dr. John Nyboer, a Simon Fraser University energy expert, says that as governments around the world face climate change and scarcity of fossil fuels, the "rate of investment in alternative energy is skyrocketing. The last few years in B.C., it's been booming."

But any method of energy production, including run-of-river, has tradeoffs and "pros and cons on all environmental sides," Nyboer says.

VAGAbond

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Quote
Any IPP capable of generating more than 50 megawatts must be approved by the BC Environmental Assessment Office.

Here is the scam.    The gov. says IPPs have to comply with environmental rules but the gov regs. exempt anything under 50 MW from a review.   50 MW is pretty big.   Many (most) IPP generating plants are individually less than about 20 MW.   So when there is an aggregation of multiple small generating plants in one location, Upper Harrison. Upper Pitt, Toba Inlet, Bute inlet, Knight Inlet etc. etc, do they all individually get a pass so a large aggregation gets passed without a review  ?

I suspect the gov. will maintain they all have to comply with regs. it is just that the smaller ones (most) don't get reviewed.    I guess that means compliance is their own responsibility.  Foxes and chicken coops etc.!
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chris gadsden

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Here is the scam.    The gov. says IPPs have to comply with environmental rules but the gov regs. exempt anything under 50 MW from a review.   50 MW is pretty big.   Many (most) IPP generating plants are individually less than about 20 MW.   So when there is an aggregation of multiple small generating plants in one location, Upper Harrison. Upper Pitt, Toba Inlet, Bute inlet, Knight Inlet etc. etc, do they all individually get a pass so a large aggregation gets passed without a review  ?

I suspect the gov. will maintain they all have to comply with regs. it is just that the smaller ones (most) don't get reviewed.    I guess that means compliance is their own responsibility.  Foxes and chicken coops etc.!
We also have found out when dealing with the gravel removal projects on the Fraser in most cases the environmental impact studies they said were being done were not. The Federal Auditor General's recently released report that I posted here a few weeks ago verified that.

With that in mind I am concerned that with the ROR projects things may be they same. Of course then there is the fish farms issue that the government also seems to give a rubber stamp to it even though there is so much evidence these farms are harming wild fish stocks at an alarming rate.

Easywater

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I have heard that these 'Run of the River' are nothing more than a stock scam.

Insiders buy stock in the publicly traded companies, the government announces that they get the projects, everyone sells.

I have heard that none of the companies have applied for permits for anything.
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VAGAbond

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Quote
I have heard that these 'Run of the River' are nothing more than a stock scam.

Insiders buy stock in the publicly traded companies, the government announces that they get the projects, everyone sells.

I have heard that none of the companies have applied for permits for anything.

Go to the head of Harrison Lake or up the Squamish to the Ashlu or up the Mamquam and take a look.   There is a lot of rock being moved and trees cut for these to be simply a stock scam.
« Last Edit: June 11, 2009, 09:44:52 PM by VAGAbond »
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chris gadsden

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Re: Run-of-river power projects breach environment regulations: documents
« Reply #10 on: June 18, 2009, 10:48:30 PM »

Chilliwack Progress
Sparks still flying over Harrison hydro dam
 
An aerial shot of the run-of-river intake at Fire Creek near the Douglas Reserve.
JENNA HAUCK/ PROGRESS


Chilliwack Progress
‘Perfect storm’ brightens Harrison hydro projects

Text   By Robert Freeman - Chilliwack Progress


Published: June 18, 2009 3:00 PM
0 Comments Low environmental standards around B.C. run-of-river hydro projects, repeated non-compliance with existing standards and inadequate enforcement by ministry staff are revealed in documents obtained under the Freedom Of Information Act, says the Western Canada Wilderness Committee.

“We repeatedly hear from Environment Minister Barry Penner that private power projects are held to a rigorous set of rules and regulations to protect our rivers and environment,” WCWC policy director Gwen Barlee says.

“However, the B.C. government’s own documents prove that is not the case.”

But Nick Andrews, a director at Cloudworks Energy, the focus of the WCWC’s FOI request, says the environmental group has taken six “selective quotes” from more than 1,800 pages of e-mails and other documents to make “sweeping conclusions” about the impact of the company’s run-of-river projects north of Harrison Lake.

“Their statements are misleading at best, and an example of knee-jerk opposition to energy generation in even its greenest forms,” he said.

But Patricia Ross, Fraser Valley Regional District chair, said she also has a 2008 ministry report that also shows a “long list of infractions” at the Harrison site.

She said Cloudworks itself has a “pretty good environmental performance record,” but its subcontractors may not be meeting the same standards.

The construction of these projects near B.C. creeks and streams has “lots of potential for significant damage, if it’s not done right,” she said.

But the regional district no longer has any role in the approval process, since new legislation introduced by the B.C. Liberal government.

“Nobody knows the local areas more than the local communities,” Ross said. “It’s disappointing we’re kept out of the loop here.”

“We’d all like to support new clean energy sources,” she added. “It’s frustrating when some of the construction practices and some of the approvals are beyond our control.”

Barlee told The Progress she “selected” the six quotes only because of the space limitations of a news release.

She said there are “pages and pages” of instances in the documents where environmental damage was done - and that because B.C. government standards are so low, there was little ministry enforcement staff could do as a result.

Ministry staff do appear surprised in one 2007 e-mail to learn the Cloudworks project is underway, and seem confused about their role in dealing with non-compliance, one of them writing “the best we are doing right now is running after fires.”

But Andrews pointed out the statements by individual ministry staff in the WCWC release are taken over a two-year long construction process and “do not accurately reflect final outcomes.”

“One, for example, refers to an intent to issue a notice of tenure non-compliance, although no such notice was in fact issued,” he said.

Penner also pointed out that large construction projects in remote areas of the province are bound to have “challenges” during construction.

“You have to keep in mind this is a $600-million project employing 300 people, one of the largest east of the Port Mann bridge,” he said. “That’s why I asked staff to keep an eye on the project, and that’s being done.”

He said the volume of ministry documents obtained by the WCWC proves his staff are “very actively” monitoring the project.

The WCWC is engaged in an “ideological battle,” he suggested, opposing private-sector involvement in run-of-river projects, although they would support them if they were government-owned.

Barlee agreed, but added the WCWC’s concern isn’t so much ideological as the practical need for long-term planning that only a government can do to ensure the “cumulative impact” of so many projects does no harm to B.C. wildlife and fish habitat.

There are 600 run-of-river projects proposed by private companies since the province’s new energy plan sparked a “goldrush” for new sources of electricity, she said.

“We aren’t opposed to the technology at all, but we’re saying there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it,” she said.

Andrews said when the WCWC is ready to define what it means by “the right way” to develop green energy, the company would welcome discussions.

Meanwhile, the In-SHUCK-ch people, who will be connected to the BC Hydro power grid at long last because of the Harrison projects, are not happy with the continuing WCWC attacks on Cloudworks.

“We would never have supported and participated in these projects if we weren’t fully confident in the environmental standards being applied,” Gerard Peters, In-SHUCK-ch chief treaty negotiator, said in a news release.

“These projects are part of the development strategy for our communities, and we resent ill-informed interference like we’re seeing from the wilderness committee,” he said.

rfreeman@theprogress.com


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Re: Run-of-river power projects breach environment regulations: documents
« Reply #11 on: June 18, 2009, 10:52:50 PM »

Chilliwack Progress
‘Perfect storm’ brightens Harrison hydro projects
 
MLA Barry Penner (left) speaks with (from left) In-SHUCK-ch chief treaty negotiator Gerard Peters, Douglas chief Don Harris and former chief Darryl Peters at the Fire Creek intake site on the Dougas Reserve Friday afternoon.
JENNA HAUCK/ PROGRESS


Text   By Robert Freeman - Chilliwack Progress


Published: June 16, 2009 8:00 AM

B.C. is blessed with a host of rivers and creeks - and mountains for them to flow down - to create enough hydro electricity to avoid importing power from coal-fired sources outside the province.

But not all the sites are located near existing forest roads to keep costs down, or near natural barriers like waterfalls to protect migrating fish, or near communities like the Douglas First Nation willing to accept their presence.

Three run-of-river projects nearing completion north of Harrison Lake have a “perfect storm” of those conditions for a viable operation, says Nick Andrews, a Cloudworks Energy director.

Flying over the area Friday with B.C. Environment Minister Barry Penner, the mountains that crowd down to the lakeshore are criss-crossed in every direction with a ragged web of logging roads and clear-cuts that cling like brown scabs on the hillsides.

The three hydro projects are not so easy to find. The sad legacy of past logging practices versus the nearly invisible “footprint” of the Harrison projects is not lost on the minister.

The helicopter hovers and twists and turns looking for the pipeline of the Port Douglas project, just east of the Lillooet River’s entry into the lake.

The Tipella Creek pipeline on the other shore is easier to see - a 300-metre nearly vertical pipeline from the intake to the powerhouse below.

The $35-million substation is located next to waterfalls that act as a barrier to fish migration upstream.

But Douglas Chief Don Harris says fishing in the area had been “decimated” by logging long before Cloudworks arrived.

One of the conditions village elders set for an agreement with the company, he says, wasn’t just protection of what was left of fish stocks, but “enhancement” to return fishing to former levels.

Cloudworks is spending more than $3-million for enhancement projects at all three sites, exceeding federal and provincial requirements.

“We do more where there’s opportunity to do it,” says Cloudworks biologist Cory Bettles. The Tipella enhancement project was originally designed for coho salmon, he says, but “most likely” will become habitat for rainbow and cut-throat trout.

The substation was also relocated to avoid a “spiritual place” near the creek that was important to the village elders, and all the construction areas will be replanted with local tree species and grasses.

The Fire Creek project further north began producing electricity for the first time Friday, diverting water from the creek down a long 4.5 kilometre pipe buried beside an existing logging road.

There is no reservoir for the project, as some critics claimed, but the headwaters of the creek were deepened to the level of the intake pipe.

Dave Knox, Cloudworks’ construction manager, says the water flow downstream is calibrated to meet government standards so the creek’s fish habitat is unaffected. A screen prevents resident fish from getting sucked into the intake, and a fish ladder allows them to get above the structure.

“Salmon don’t get up here,” he says, resident trout coming from past stocking efforts.

The eventual cluster of six small hydro projects Cloudworks is building in the area will provide enough electricity to fuel 60,000 homes per year, cutting some 200,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases annually.

Harris says most of his people welcomed the projects, which will finally connect them to the BC Hydro power grid, providing electricity needed to operate businesses and create jobs, and bring utilities like water to housing subdivisions.

He says the projects didn’t create as many jobs for his people as hoped, but that’s only because there wasn’t enough housing to accommodate returning band members.

About 40 members live on the reserve, but the band has a total membership of about 236.

“We don’t have many houses in our community,” Harris explains. “Then we had the (Cloudworks) jobs, but not the housing.”

Accommodation was available in the company’s work camp, but Harris points out that most of his people went through the residential school experience and the warren-like dormitories of the camp left them uncomfortable.

Still, he says some members are doing subcontracting work for the company and some are getting trained to eventually take over maintenance of the substations.

The company has also entered into a number of side agreements with the band that will bring telephone and Internet services to the area, and build a traditional pit-house or Eshtken for village meetings and ceremonies.

“We’re glad we’re able to enter into those types of agreement with Cloudworks ... to further some of the dreams we’ve had,” says former chief Darryl Peters.

Perhaps more significant on a symbolic level, the company discovered soil next to a village playground near the old generator site was contaminated. After removing the generator, the company spent $100,000 to build a new playground and to truck away about 40 loads of contaminated material.

A special relationship has grown up between the band and the company after 10 years of working together on the projects, Andrews agrees.

Initially, he says there was some “resentment” of the Cloudworks crews, who were mistaken for BC Hydro officials - who for decades had denied the band access to the 360 KV transmission line that has hung above their community since the 1960s.

He also agrees it’s “gratifying” personally to play a part in bringing electricity to the people and improving living conditions.

“We’re kind of in this together,” he says. “We’re only going to be happy as long as they’re happy with us being here.”

Happy enough, Harris says, that he’s proposing the Cloudworks agreement with the band be a model for all communities - not just aboriginal - negotiating run-of-river agreements.

An “impact benefits standard” Harris is proposing to the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs this fall would ensure that all communities “get the same benefits that we do,” he says.

Meanwhile, the NDP is backing away from its call for a moratorium on run-of-river hydro projects, and its opposition to the carbon tax.

NDP election candidates like Mason Goulden in Chilliwack called the projects a sell-out of B.C.’s rivers and streams to private corporations.

The party called for a moratorium on new projects, but on Friday NDP environmental critic Rob Fleming refused to use the word “moratorium” when asked about the NDP’s stand post-election.

Instead, Fleming called for a “more thorough environmental review” of the projects.

According to the B.C. ministry, no fewer than 11 provincial and six federal approvals are needed before a permit is issued, and all BC Hydro contracts with independent power producers must be approved by the BC Utilities Commission.

Ownership of rivers and streams where projects are located also remains in public hands, the ministry says.

Cloudworks will pay the province about $92 million over 40 years to “rent” the water for the Harrison projects.

rfreeman@theprogress.com

chris gadsden

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Re: Run-of-river power projects breach environment regulations: documents
« Reply #12 on: June 29, 2009, 10:37:09 PM »

Energy isn't dirty, but the talk sure is
The Times
Published: Friday, June 26, 2009

Editor:

Re: WCWC grabbing headlines again, Times, June 23.

It's obvious to all of us who are familiar with what's going on that Barry Penner is saying environmentalists are against green power but they're not; they just seek solutions that are of an appropriate size and location and where the impacts are small--24MW sounds small but I bet it isn't. Mr. Penner also suggests that Fire Creek will eliminate dirty diesel generators. I'd be curious to see if they throw out those generators or not; wouldn't they be kept for standby power?


Mr. Penner explains that a typical run-of-river project requires 50 permits from 11 provincial and six federal government agencies. Since when did quantity equal quality? Typically the quantity is a mask for lack of quality. The number of permits and agencies has no bearing on the standards.

And how does a 24-megawatt project that serves a community come even close to being comparable to the 1,000 mega-watt Bute disaster-in-the-making? The two are wildly different scales and impacts.

When Penner says B.C. is an importer they are talking about B.C. Hydro, not B.C. as a province. This has been a deceptive way of manufacturing the perception of a shortage of energy. B.C. Stats makes it clear that we are a net exporter. In fact, the only jurisdiction we trade with that is largely coal-based (Alberta) has been a net importer from B.C. for the last five years and nine of the last 11. In other words we are already offsetting dirty power production, not the other way around.

So, we aren't net importers of power. But, if we were, would this imported power really be "dirty power" as Mr. Penner suggests. A brief scan of Google determines that 73 per cent of electricity in Washington State is hydro generated and eight per cent nuclear. So does B.C. only import the dirty stuff? Penner needs the real facts, if he says most electricity being imported comes from coal or gas plants in Washington State, then that can't be right. If we import 10 per cent from Washington say, of which 19 per cent is dirty then we have two per cent dirty tops. So the energy isn't dirty but the talk is.

Bob Andrews, BEng.