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Independent and powerful

Six micro-hydro projects would brighten future for Douglas First Nation



Chief Darryl Peters doesn’t want to say how much money will pour into his community if B.C. Hydro approves six independent power projects for his people’s waterways next month. But if the run-of-river projects on Douglas (Xa’xtsa) reserve and traditional territory are approved Peters says it will mean major changes for the 80-some community members at the north end of Harrison Lake in the Lower Lillooet valley.

"We won’t have to rely on Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) anymore," Peters said in a July 14 interview, but added that some INAC programs will remain in place.

Douglas First Nation will enter into a 40-year sub-lease of some of its reserve with Vancouver-based Cloudworks Energy if B.C. Hydro gives the go ahead to the developer’s application proposal for six run-of-river projects.

B.C. Hydro issued a province-wide call last fall for independent power project (IPP) submissions and received 53 proposals from 37 potential IPP producers. The corporation based awarding of contracts on affordability, reliability, cleanliness, and depth of community consultation. Once approved the Crown corporation will buy power from the IPP producers at a yet-to-be-determined rate per megawatt.

Three years ago B.C. Hydro paid $54/megawatt to independent power producers after an open call for applications. (One megawatt lights up 1,000 homes.) But the senior vice-president of customer care said the price is likely to be higher this time around.

"Construction costs have gone up significantly, as well as the cost of steel commodities that go into these projects because of a booming economy, so we will have to be paying more than $54," said Bev Van Ruyven.

An announcement regarding the successful proposals is expected Aug. 4.

Cloudworks, who managed the Rutherford and Miller Creek IPP construction in Pemberton, have worked with Douglas community for seven years on the proposed $420 million projects. Slated for Douglas, Fire, Stokke, Tipella, Upper Stave and Lamont creeks, the projects include powerhouses and a substation that will connect to existing hydro lines and bring a reliable source of electricity to the community’s two villages, Tipella and Port Douglas. Despite being within a hundred metres of B.C. Hydro transmission lines, the isolated communities have been dependent on unreliable diesel-generated power for years.

Douglas First Nation wants to go ahead with six independent power projects in their territory. Tipella Creek is one of the potential sites. Photo by Michael Potyok

In addition to reliable energy, construction of the projects, which could start spring of 2007, will mean steady employment for community members. Marine engineer and Cloudworks founder David Andrews said the projects need up to 200 workers and the firm will hire as many community members as possible.

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