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Innergex tests Callaghan Creek for power potential

Fish populations tested to see if run-of-river power project is viable



Lovers of Callaghan Creek watched nervously as Innergex, the company that owns the run-of-river rights to the creek, tested the waters over two days in early May.

"We've owned the water license for Callaghan Creek for several years now; it is a license to investigate and potentially develop a hydro project," said Bas Brusche, Innergex's director of public affairs.

"A couple of years ago, you could hold water licenses indefinitely and only develop the projects that you want to, but the rules have changed and B.C. has stated that in order to keep a water license you need to actually investigate. You don't have to develop anything... and that is what we have done."

Brusche said the work that was carried out was environmental in nature.

"We flew over it with a helicopter on Monday morning and we sent a team out to look at fish populations, that is all," he said. "We haven't taken any decision as to whether this is a good project."

Should they proceed, he added, local stakeholders would be contacted before an independent power project (IPP) would be applied for and constructed.

"We'd need to talk to the municipality of Whistler, we need to talk with the Squamish First Nation, Lil'wat Nation. And we also know Callaghan Creek has recreational value," Brusche said, adding that they planned to meet with representatives of kayaker groups in the next few weeks.

Kayaker Steve Arns, who organizes the annual Callaghan Creek Race and who has written an online guide to kayaking rivers in the region,, said he would be part of the discussions. In 2012 the race attracted 24 kayakers and is due to take place this year on July 20.

"The views of the kayaking community and people who develop are often completely opposite of one another. We would like to see the rivers remain free-flowing and they would obviously want to make a business by taking the water and doing something else with it," Arns said.

"We're not opposed to IPP development in appropriate cases, but Callaghan Creek is probably one of the most heavily used recreational white water rivers in the province, if not the country."

Arns said Callaghan Creek is "one of the ones that should be left alone," with value outside of industrial development.

A Facebook page called Save the Callaghan has been set up, Arns said.

Allan Crawford, co-owner Canadian Wilderness Adventures, has been developing a rafting business called Cowboy Rafting on the upper section of Callaghan Creek for the last three summers and is also concerned.

He applied to the province for the tenure to run the company about a year ago, and described the route as a "wild ride."

"The upper section is probably about a class three (out of five), so it's the perfect little river for the type of clientele that comes to Whistler," Crawford said.

"This wouldn't be the children's run, this would be the adult run, the higher-level adventure. The key thing about this river, compared to, say, the Green River, the Green has the Highway on one side and the railroad on the other, whereas Callaghan is just this incredible raw nature."

Crawford added that power lines and roads needed for an IPP would "create a loss that would be unrecoverable."

Crawford was concerned that the intake and other sections of any IPP would be located in the middle of where he would want to take guests.

"It also would mean large cuts of trees and there is beautiful old-growth, it's just stunning in there along the edge of the river. Stunning beauty. So that would hinder this opportunity.

"I don't know how many jobs it would create or how much money it would make for the province, but we'd probably employ 20 people if we get it rolling," he said.

"It's really wild. That's why we're calling it Cowboy Rafting."

"(Innergex has) been here all week, there's helicopters flying above and doing studies on the river," he said.

"Do we need to do this to all of our rivers? Hydro power is nice clean power, which I like but there so many rivers for this, does it need to be on the ones used in the recreation world."