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IPP rezoning submitted for Ashlu

SLRD to consider application

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Ledcor has submitted another rezoning application for a power project on the Ashlu Creek, less than one year after the first application was rejected by the regional district.

Project manager Kelly Boychuk said he dropped off the run of river application to the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District on Tuesday.

The application is essentially the same as the one that was denied in January he said, with one caveat: the province and the SLRD are in discussions about protecting 10 others streams in the region if the Ashlu moves ahead.

"The main reasons that Ledcor feels that the application was rejected were the issues about there not being a Sea to Sky IPP planning policy and the fact that they (the SLRD board) wanted some streams to be protected through the LRMP process and that was really out of our hands and more on a provincial government level," said Boychuk.

So while there are no direct changes to the application, there is new information for the board to consider. Boychuk reiterated that Ledcor has not been involved in these recent government-to-government discussions.

SLRD board chair John Turner confirmed last week that there have been negotiations with the province.

"There’s going to be perceptions that this was a backroom deal. And it wasn’t," said Turner.

The proposal from Victoria would see the Ashlu power project move ahead while 10 other streams in the region would be "protected" from IPP development through water reserves. The details of the proposal must still be ironed out.

That has the Mount Currie First Nations band a little concerned.

Mount Currie recently acquired the water licence on the Birkenhead River, one of the streams the province proposes to "protect" from IPP development with a water reserve.

"I consider it (the proposal) a huge breech in the positive working relationships that Lil’wat First Nation has been working with the province and its ministries and I think they need to respect the government-to-government relationships that we have been working on to ensure that there is land use and planning certainty within the Lil’wat territory," said Mount Currie band lead negotiator/consultant Lyle Leo.

"You have Ministry of Energy and Mines playing a high stakes poker game with the regional district for the control of the power project process, which further alienates the ability for the Lil’wat Nation to meaningfully participate in a consultation process with these power projects but also removes the opportunity of the Lil’wat Nation to fully enjoy the benefits of the use of these creeks in their traditional territories."

He said Mount Currie had no immediate plans to pursue an IPP on the Birkenhead.

The province’s proposal, however, responds to concerns the board had when it rejected Ledcor’s proposal for the Ashlu in January. Around that time they called for high priority analysis of 12 rivers in the region and asked the province to initiate an overall IPP plan for the region.

"The province themselves feel that this is a major initiative for them to be able to come forward with this response to our ruling from last January," said Turner. "From their perspective, they’re doing something that’s out of the ordinary in trying to reach some kind of a compromise here."

Provincial representatives would not comment this week.

When asked if the board could give this application fair consideration in light of the province’s demands, Turner said: "We have the same option as we had the first time, it’s just that there’s new information here.

"We have to respect process, and the other thing that I made perfectly clear in the discussions, because there’s definitely not any agreements here, is that we had to respect the process for rezoning again and that it had to be an open and transparent process."

Stuart Smith, spokesperson for the Whitewater Kayaking Association of B.C. and an opponent of the project during its first iteration, called the province’s proposal "unbelievable."

"This is a pretty interesting ploy, I think, because it puts the SLRD in a real tough spot and it puts a number of the SLRD board members in a real tough spot," said Smith.

"If the province wants to put this potential list as a trade off on the table, then we need to have all the other projects back on the table and let’s have a planning process."

Smith also said the 10 rivers under special consideration, which include Pemberton Creek, Sims Creek and the Ryan River, are not high priorities for IPP development for a number of reasons.

"When you look at what is really being offered, we see a list of streams that are in the majority, unlikely to have projects developed," he added.

The Ashlu application will not be considered at December’s regional board meeting. Instead, the board has asked for the province for clarification of certain points of their proposal.

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