By Cindy Filipenko
A request for temporary use permits to facilitate building the Ashlu independent power project has been put on hold by the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District.
Director Russ Oakley voiced concern over the size of the area deemed necessary for the project.
“This is much bigger than we have dealt with in the past,” confirmed Steven Olmstead, manager of planning and development for the SLRD.
The entire footprint of the area requested by IPP developer Ledcor amounts to 123 acres, 71 of which are subject to a temporary use permit as property is currently zoned Resource Use. As such, the land can only be used for residential, recreation, silviculture and wood harvesting purposes. Therefore, the permits must be in place before industrial uses can occur.
The three permit applications are as follows: 33.6 acres for area construction, supply storage and fabrication facilities; 6 acres waste rock and soil spoil areas: and an additional 31.5 acres for soil burrow, laydown and construction areas for intake.
The other 52 acres are not subject to temporary use permits. This area will house the concrete batch plant.
Olmstead said in his opinion the size of the project probably related to the project’s history, with Ledcor wanting to ensure they had a project area broad enough that they would remain within the temporary use permit if any changes occurred.
The controversial Ashlu IPP has had a long history with the SLRD. In January 2005 the board denied an initial rezoning application submitted by Ledcor in April 2003. The board deferred a second rezoning application, submitted in December 2005, at the end of January 2006 pending the completion of the regional energy strategy.
In the meantime, the provincial government enacted Bill 30, which included Utilities Commission Act amendments that affected jurisdiction over IPPs. Power projects on Crown land are now exempt from local government zoning. However, regional boards retain the authority to regulate temporary industrial uses associated with IPPs.
Oakley suggested that the proposed area amounted to a lot of room “to store and fabricate things.”
“I don’t think it’s unreasonable to have them justify reasons for their requirements,” said the Bralorne representative. “Other IPPs have had smaller sites and have got their jobs done.”
SLRD Chair John Turner expressed concerns about the environmental impact of the project.
“If trees are cut down on 123 acres, I have an issue with that.” He said. “I would like to see some explanation as to whether it’s possible to cut down the footprint. I don’t think that constitutes impeding the project and is well within the powers of the SLRD to challenge.
When the discussions turned to a previous offer with a recreation amenity as part of the package, SLRD administrator Paul Edgington cautioned the board that a voluntary amenity gift cannot be factored in when considering the issue of land use.
Olmstead suggested that the board has two options, to ask the proponent to refine the mapping of the area or specify the maximum development area.
Director Raj Khalon questioned the impact of the project on the area’s infrastructure, most notably bridges. Whistler’s Mayor Ken Melamed raised the issue of the board’s ability to have control over the project’s impacts.
Electoral Area C director Susie Gimse moved the motion to refer the issue back to staff to work on the issues and bring the item back to the board’s Dec. 16 meeting.
According to the documents submitted by Ledcor, all relevant provincial and federal agency permits have been obtained. The proposed timeline for construction of the project extends from the now-passed start date of October 2006 until December 2008.