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Fitzsimmons power project must re-route for luge track

Ledcor investigates economic viability of moving IPP project

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Developers of the Fitzsimmons Creek power project are back at the drawing board, revising their project on Blackcomb Mountain so as not to jeopardize Whistler’s Olympic bob/luge track.

Vancouver-based Ledcor is now waiting for a report on a re-routing option to determine if their project is still economically viable.

Originally the run of river project called for a four kilometre long water pipe, or penstock, running underneath the $55 million dollar permanent bob/luge track.

But security and safety concerns have changed those plans and the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Winter Games has asked the company to reassess its plans.

"The value of the luge is significant and to pose a risk to such an investment is of concern," said Arthur DeJong, mountain planning and environmental resource manager with Whistler-Blackcomb.

"We’re trying to facilitate both projects in the area but at this point… the risk of trying to run a penstock underneath a luge, you can imagine that should a leak occur… it’s a risk that at this point… we will not take."

The bob/luge track is part of Whistler’s Sliding Centre, slated for Blackcomb Mountain, above Base II and next to the Fitzsimmons Creek.

Ledcor had planned to build an independent power project on the creek, allowing them to divert a portion of water, funnel it into the penstock, down to a powerhouse at the Blackcomb Words Yard, where the water would generate energy before being diverted back into the creek.

That was before the Olympic plans were unveiled, which put both projects in such close proximity.

"When the (IPP) plans first hit the table, the luge was not designated in this area," said DeJong.

"We didn’t know – that was something we could not have foreseen."

With its original plans scrapped, Ledcor now has two options on the table.

Both options still remove water from the creek but re-route the penstock to flank the bob/luge track on either side.

The first option, putting the pipe in the small stretch of land between the creek and the track, doesn’t look promising.

"There’s only a limited section of land that has the appropriate grade for the luge and in order to utilize it all, the luge gets forced very close to the creek," said DeJong.

This doesn’t leave much room for Ledcor’s pipe, he added.

The second option is to run the pipe on the right side of the luge track looking downhill, essentially moving it northeast towards the ski trails Gear Jammer and Lower Mainline.

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