Opinion » Alta States

Alta states: The Fitz Creek run-of-river project

W/B’s first real steps up the sustainability stairway



“It’s really a simple equation. How we deal with environmental issues today will determine how we survive as a species in the future.”

– Arthur DeJong

As Kermit the Frog used to say: “It’s not easy being green.” Just ask Arthur DeJong…

“I don’t believe, fundamentally, in ‘marketing’ our environmental initiatives,” says Whistler-Blackcomb’s tireless eco-prophet. “To me, it’s simply our responsibility as stewards of this land to add value to the assets placed under our control.”

He pauses. Searches carefully for his next words. “The earth’s ecosystems are in decline. And that decline is exponential. That’s why it’s so important to do everything we can to protect those natural assets under our care. To then turn around and pat ourselves on the back publicly for doing what we need to do — well, that kind of bugs me…”

That said, even the most committed environmentalist must make deals with the devil to get some of those life-changing initiatives to come true. “Our environmental conscience is growing,” says DeJong. “It’s a journey. And it’s a journey up a long, steep, grinding and difficult stairway. Given that we’re barely on the first steps of that journey, I think it’s perfectly okay to encourage each other — at least a little bit.”

And then he laughs. “I just hope it doesn’t take six years to get the next ‘green’ project up and running,” he says. “After all, if you take that stairway metaphor a little further, when it comes to saving the environment, we’re walking when we should be running!”

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Last week, W/B announced that the long-awaited run-of-river hydro project on Fitzsimmons Creek had finally been given the go-ahead. What makes the project most interesting to me is that at buildout, the energy produced will provide B.C. Hydro with 33.5 gigawatt hours of power yearly, just about exactly what W/B uses annually to run its operation.

This is great news. Moreover, it’s exactly the kind of initiative that Whistlerites need to hear about to illustrate that there is no single silver bullet that will solve all our carbon-burning issues. Rather, it’s the sum of initiatives like the Fitz run-of-river (plus geothermal, plus wind, plus solar plus whatever) that will make the whole alternative power grid in the corridor greater — and more effective — over the long run.

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