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A river runs through it

Independent hydropower energizes debate in the Sea to Sky



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No energy source comes without trade-offs, and these often pit one set of values against another, which can be hard to weigh up. The waterfall hike, considered a wonderful if precarious route by locals, is described in the 2007 Summit Power feasibility report as very steep and of "little recreational value" — which might be fair in terms of the number of people who use it, but not in terms of the quality of the experience.

Personal complaints are mixed in with regional and global concerns: Ray Mason, who protests the Upper Lillooet project, says his main complaint is that the project would plow roads in winter that would wipe out a route he currently uses for his Totally Awesome Adventures snowmobiling tour company. Others are most concerned about BC Hydro going bankrupt, still others about global warming.

"There are two competing, even battling forms of environmentalism: strict conservation versus sustainable development," says Protter. He leans towards the latter. The idea of conservation is increasingly complicated in a world where little is truly wild anymore. The Pemberton Creek watershed, for example, has seen about 100 hectares of trees felled for forestry since 2000, there is about eight kilometres of road already in the area, a heli-skiing operation uses the Ipsoot Glacier at the Pemberton Creek headwaters, and there was once a rifle range near the waterfall.

"I am unwilling to be 100 per cent for or against public or private power — and I urge you and your readers to distrust anyone who is," says Jaccard, who helped to design the environmental assessment process and who introduced integrated resource planning methods at the BC Utilities Commission in 1992 that are still used today.

"It all depends on the conditions. You cannot say which outcome is best without going through the process."

People like Palen are now helping to make that process more informed. In the meantime, Pembertonians won't have an IPP in their backyard — for now.

Freelance Pemberton writer Nicola Jones can see and hear the Pemberton Creek waterfall from her home. A science journalist since 2000, she is most frequently published in the journal Nature, though she contributes to many other publications.