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Fitzsimmons power in line with resort sustainability

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Green project will only go through with community support

Whistler will not get "green energy" from the Fitzsimmons Creek if the community is opposed to the project, even though it might be the resort’s best chance to move towards sustainability.

"If we’re going to be true to ourselves and apply ourselves seriously to the Natural Step, we have to give our best effort in applying this project," said Arthur DeJong, mountain planning and environmental resource manager with Whistler-Blackcomb.

"The caveat, of course, is the support of the community."

About a year ago Whistler-Blackcomb asked Ledcor Power Inc., a Vancouver-based construction company and independent power producer, to look at the feasibility of putting a run of river project on the Fitzsimmons Creek, known locally as the Fitz.

"Nature’s offering here is hydro-driven energy production," said DeJong.

Initial studies showed the Fitz is well suited to this type of project. There would be little environmental impact on fish habitat or adverse recreational impact on kayakers – two key concerns with past run of river projects.

The small hydroelectric project would generate 32 gigawatt hours of electricity each year, which is equivalent to the energy Whistler-Blackcomb uses in its annual operations.

But the power that flows from the Fitz will not necessarily power the ski operations here. Rather, it will go into the main B.C. Hydro grid, to be distributed throughout the province.

As with other small hydroelectric projects, Ledcor will install a weir (about 1.5 metres high on the Fitzsimmons) which will divert some of the water into an intake.

The water will flow into a powerhouse where it will turn a turbine to generate electricity, before the water is returned into the creek. There is no net loss of water.

Capital costs for this project are estimated at $12 million.

Ledcor, who is the full owner, is slated to make about $1.6 million gross revenue per year.

Whistler-Blackcomb will not get a cut of the profits, said DeJong. The company is just a facilitator to do business.

He said the Fitz energy is key for the resort to move towards sustainability.

"It’s our best chance with the resources we have today."

DeJong was on hand at the first public open house for the project, held at the Myrtle Philip Community Centre on Thursday, June 27.

Locals strolled in throughout the course of the four-hour open house, among them two concerned Pemberton residents who have been joining many members of their gateway community to fight against a run of river project on Miller Creek.

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