Though Innergex Renewable Energy has been evacuated from its Upper Lillooet Hydro Project site for nearly three weeks because of forest fires in the region, the company has not seen any major losses in assets.
As well, the developers of the project will allow firefighters to set up at the construction site in order to help increase efficiency fighting the Boulder Creek fire.
Project manager Oliver Robson updated Village of Pemberton council on the effects of the roughly 5,000-hectare blaze at its meeting on July 21.
Robson added roughly 85 firefighters were set to have access to the campsite beginning the evening of July 22 in order to reduce travel time to fight the fire. As well, firefighting personnel will have access to telephone and Internet services at the site as opposed to operating with less reliable connections like satellite phones and radios.
Robson said the company's main priority at the moment is assisting to get the fire under control in any way it is possible.
"Our contractors have been working for the wildfire management branch to help them with anything they need," Robson said during the meeting. "They're not working for us right now. There's been no work on-site."
Robson said for now — "knock on wood" — the company's assets haven't been severely affected. Some transmission lines have been damaged, but the fire has stayed away from the camp.
The company has been monitoring the roads accessing the site trying to keep members of the public away.
"Every day, people are trying to access the site. They want to see the fire. They want to go to the (Keyhole) Hot Springs," Robson said.
According to regional staff with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, there was a small landslide that came down July 12 on the Upper Lillooet/Meager Creek Forest Service Road near the Innergex camp.
A ministry geomorphologist assessed the slide area and the road was deemed safe for wildfire-suppression use. The ministry has been closing the road from time to time as per shutdown procedures during extreme heat (greater than 35-degrees). This is common practice as the road is in the Mount Meager hazard area.
Company updates council on public benefits of project
Innergex attended the meeting primarily to provide an update on the local, regional and provincial economic benefits of the project construction.
Port Moody-based Typlan completed the review. Russ Tyson represented the company at the meeting.
The presentation was the first time the company was able to present actual numbers, as at its last submission in 2012, it presented only estimates regarding the economic impact. The numbers were derived from the budgets of the two main contractors. Tyson explained the review was conducted using the British Columbia Input-Output Model.
Though the effects on the provincial gross domestic product (GDP), employment numbers and household income were overestimated, effects on the Squamish Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) were actually underestimated. The project has generated $29 million toward the SLRD's GDP, which was $7.2 million higher than estimated.
Tyson noted the employment numbers weren't calculated in a way that would directly represent full-time equivalent statistics, but since most of the employees are full-time, the numbers would be fairly similar. The employment numbers in the SLRD were roughly two-and-a-half times larger than estimated. Lastly, household income derived from the project in the SLRD was approximately $21 million after initially estimating $14 million in impact.
Estimates were not made for the Village of Pemberton (VOP) initially. However, the project has added about $5 million to the VOP's GDP and $3 million to household income while providing about 44 man-years of employment in the village.
Provincially, the effect on the GDP was about $75 million after an initial estimate of $128 million and household income was about $53 million after an initial estimate of $86.4 million. The project has provided about 1,025 man-years of employment, though 1,458 were initially expected.
The estimate of $19 million in local and provincial taxes generated was accurate, and the $7 million received by the SLRD was higher than the $2.1 million initially estimated. The VOP, meanwhile, received about $1 million in taxes.
Public hearing slated to restrict drive-thrus
A council initiative to restrict drive-thru restaurants in the Gateway section of Pemberton found a loophole had recently been opened for a local site.
Council voted to take action to try to close that loophole.
Prior to last fall's election, the former council investigated its options to try to limit franchise and fast food restaurants in the Portage Road and Highway 99 corridor. The current council continued forward this spring, and at the June 2 Committee of the Whole meeting, voted to exclude drive-in restaurants as a permitted use on properties zoned at C-2 (tourist commercial), C-3 (Portage Road commercial) or C-5 (neighbourhood pub commercial zone) properties.
However, while researching the issue further, staff discovered that during a proposed rezoning at 1490 Portage Rd. that was approved in January 2014, drive-in restaurants were added as a permitted use for C-5 properties. The applicant, Function Gate Pemberton Pub Holdings Ltd., had sought for a change from C-5 to C-2 zoning, but in the end, council decided to expand the types of uses permitted in the C-5 zone, including allowing for drive-in restaurants. The property is the only one zoned as C-5 within Pemberton.
When this addition was realized, planner Lisa Pedrini contacted the landowner. She reported to council that while the owner didn't have plans to put a drive-thru on the site, he was still unhappy with any attempt to restrict the uses as it may impact his ability to sell the property down the line.
Council ultimately voted in favour of giving the zoning amendment first and second readings and to hold a public hearing on Sept. 1 at 7 p.m. to allow opponents and proponents of the change to speak to council about the issue.
Coun. Karen Ross was not in favour and wanted to hold off on advancing the issue. She was also concerned with the oversight in the initial staff report and felt as though councillors were not notified in a timely fashion when it was discovered.