In Pemberton these days there is little ambivalence about independent power projects (IPPs) and a considerable number of polarizing positions vying for public support.
Two projects in particular have captured debate: the Upper Lillooet run-of-river project of Innergex, which is now seeking final approvals from the provincial government and the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District before full construction can begin, and the Village of Pemberton's foray into discovering if residents have the appetite for a smaller run-of-river community project on Pemberton Creek within the village's boundaries.
With a mind to finding out how already established projects have impacted communities, the local chamber of commerce invited Chief Don Harris of the Douglas First Nation and band manager Lyle Leo to speak at their luncheon at the Pemberton Museum on Sept. 19.
"Obviously there has been a lot of talk lately about independent power projects and the effect on our community and this will be a great education for some people... or a chance to hear some firsthand facts," David Mackenzie, vice chair of the Pemberton Chamber of Commerce, said when introducing Harris and Leo.
Thirty chamber members of the Pemberton Chamber of Commerce listened as the pair talked for half an hour about how their own experience with IPPs on band territory has changed things.
One of the reasons the chief said he wanted to talk to the chamber was in recognition of the amount of spending Douglas First Nation did in Pemberton on services and supplies. He said local businessowners suggested he make the presentation.
Forty people currently live onsite at the Douglas Nation community of Tipella, on the northern shores of Harrison Lake. Around 200 from the community have moved elsewhere for a number of reasons, including work or education opportunities.
The community is two hours down logging roads from Pemberton.
One of the aims of coming to the agreement that led to the original creation of six small IPPs in their territory was to establish an infrastructure that would be attractive to band members and encourage them to return, Harris said.
"We engaged the developer in 2002. We had sat down with them a few years prior to that, but 2002 was when we began hammering out some agreements and moving forward building some projects," he said.
The six projects built in 2006 and 2007 are 50 per cent owned by Innergex. They include Douglas Creek (27MW), Tipella Creek (18MW), Stokke Creek (22MW), Fire Creek (23MW), Upper Stave River Creek (33MW) and Lamont Creek (27MW).
The Tipella Creek and Douglas Creek projects will transfer to Nation ownership when the current agreement expires.
The seventh project in Douglas Nation territory will be operational this fall and construction starts on the eighth project in the spring of 2014.