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Ashlu proposal a watershed for IPPs

Without a master plan for independent power projects communities face a showdown over each proposal



Time is quickly running out for public comment on one of the most controversial independent power projects ever proposed in the Sea to Sky corridor.

On Wednesday, Nov. 17 the Ashlu Creek IPP will face its second public hearing in Squamish, giving local kayakers, residents, First Nations and project supporters one last chance to sound off on the project before it’s put to a vote at the regional district table.

While the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District has been pushing for a master plan which addresses IPP development throughout the corridor, that plan has yet to be developed. So projects are dealt with one at a time.

Meanwhile the Ashlu proponents, Ledcor Power Inc., have been moving forward gathering approvals for their project from various provincial agencies.

The SLRD board must now consider rezoning the land for the Ashlu project in the absence of a regional plan.

"We did talk about trying to defer all decisions around rezonings related to IPP development but there are some (like the Ashlu Creek) that were initiated some time ago," said SLRD Board Chair Susan Gimse. "It’s well underway and… we will be addressing it."

But she doesn’t deny that it will be a tough decision for the nine-member board, made up of the four corridor mayors and five representatives from other areas in the district.

The issues surrounding IPP development in the corridor are wide and varied and extremely contentious, particularly as the Sea to Sky area is undoubtedly the hot zone for IPP activity in the province.

Simply put, run of river projects take water from a stream, divert it into a powerhouse and then send it back into the stream after it is used to create power. The Miller, the Rutherford, the Brandywine and the Soo IPPs have all come before the Ashlu. In fact, there are 13 projects in the Sea to Sky area, seven of which are already operating.

It is doubtful the Ashlu will be the last of proposed IPP projects in the area, with water license applications in place for roughly 60 more projects.

"I imagine we’ll see some more coming forward," said Gimse. "Clearly what needs to happen is we need sit down with all of the stakeholders and develop an overall master plan that looks at ensuring community interests, recreation, historic values, social and environmental values are being addressed."

NIMBY – Not In My Back Yard

The merits of green power are difficult to refute. At the same time, there are concerns from residents and kayakers in the corridor that putting power projects, green or otherwise, on corridor creeks could adversely affect tourism, recreation and more localized environmental concerns, such as disturbing fish habitat.

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