The fate of the Ashlu independent power project (IPP) remains undecided.
However, stakeholders may have a decision earlier than the expected end of year resolution.
The Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) board members Monday altered staff recommendations to allow for an earlier decision if a regional strategy on IPPs is not underway by June 1.
"I was pleasantly surprised by the decision," said Ledcor project manager Kelly Boychuk. He characterized his mood leaving the meeting as being "cautiously optimistic."
Walking into the Jan. 30, meeting Boychuk had expected the board to accept the staff recommendations as presented. The three-part recommendation asked for a rezoning application for the Ashlu IPP to be deferred pending completion of a regional energy/IPP strategy and that the province be requested to initiate and complete a multi-stakeholder regional IPP strategy as soon as possible, with a completion no later that Dec. 31, 2006.
Delegations from a number of those stakeholder groups presented their positions to the board in front of a packed house.
Mount Currie Band administrator Sheldon Tetreault and lead negotiator for economic development Lyle Leo made a joint presentation outlining the Lil’wat Nation’s concerns. Leo pointed out that while the Ashlu project is in Squamish territory, the implications of a provincial government offer to protect 10 other rivers in the region in return for approval of the Ashlu IPP could dramatically affect B.C.’s fourth largest First Nations community,
Leo also reminded the SLRD that the Lil’wat Nation had opted out of the provincial and federal land claims process in the early ’90s.
"We are unique in the way we collaborate and engage our neighbours and all levels of government," said the Lil’wat negotiator. "We look for win-win outcomes on complex issues that society at large is not educated upon. We welcome you to come and talk to us if you have an issue going on in our territory."
Tetreault outlined the issues the band had with the way the provincial government was positioning the project.
"The Ashlu project does not fall within the Lil’wat traditional territory. However, eight of the 10 (waterways) that the government would reserve fall within the Lil’wat Nation’s traditional territory," said Tetreault.
He added that the band council felt the planning on IPPs had been neither comprehensive nor principled and the provincial government’s proposal effectively negated aboriginal title and rights.
Presenting the board with maps of Lil’wat traditional territory and a copy of a letter the band sent to the deputy energy minister, Tetreault concluded the presentation by appealing to the board to not support the Ashlu project under the current terms.