The Rutherford Creek Power Project has been pumping out
electricity since May of 2004, but kayakers have yet to use the whitewater practice
facility they were promised as compensation for the loss of a popular
The basic practice kayak channel has been completed, but
according to Stuart Smith of the Whitewater Kayaking Association of B.C.
(WKABC) — which signed an agreement with the original developers of the
Rutherford Creek run-of-river power project — the facility does not meet
their needs or specifications. Further, they expected that the facility would
be handed over to the association when the power project was complete, but the
channel remains in the hands of the power company.
“It’s not running, and we’re not happy with it,” Smith said.
“Basically the developer that owns the project now, Innergex, bought the
project from Cloudworks Energy. Cloudworks was really easy to deal with and we
have a signed agreement with them that Innergex inherited, but they’ve decided
to ignore us for the past year.”
The practice facility does not follow the designs that were
originally produced by the WKABC, which Smith said is understandable given the
physical restraints of the landscape and the costs. However, they have come up
with several design compromises that the new owners have agreed to implement
that would still accomplish the WKABC’s goals.
“So far they have not done that, or won’t do it, and they
haven’t turned it over to us,” he said.
Instead, Smith says Innergex has decided to turn the facility
into a kayak slalom course, and has allied itself with other kayakers that are
in favour of that approach.
“They have put in poles and wires to hang the slalom posts, but
they have not fixed any of the things we’ve identified as safety hazards.
They’ve gone ahead and rearranged the course, and basically done some things
that were not approved by us or wanted by us,” said Smith.
“It’s gotten pretty sour at this point, and it looks like it
may be heading to legal hands.”
The facility that the WKABC envisioned would be a beginner to
intermediate water course with a number of man-made features that simulate
actual whitewater kayaking. A slalom course is somewhat different and would
likely only be accessible by more advanced kayakers.
Although Smith says changing the project to reflect the WKABC’s
wishes would add costs to the developer, he says the fact that the facility is
still closed after three years has allowed Innergex to profit. By not diverting
any of the creek water into the kayak park they have been able to divert more
water into power generation.
Smith says he would prefer not to turn the issue over to
lawyers, but says the association may have no choice unless they can come to an
agreement with Innergex over the layout of the park and a date when the
handover will take place. So far Smith says he’s not encouraged, but hopes that
they will be able to have discussions over the winter.
Smith says it sets an important precedent for dealing with
energy companies. There are numerous other independent power projects proposed
for on creeks used by kayakers.
“The Ashlu (power project) went ahead against the wishes of the
community and regional district, the Kettle River project is moving against the
wishes of that community, and it seems there is no opportunity for the public
to have any meaningful opposition to these projects,” said Smith. “The province
wants to see these projects go ahead, they’re revenue generators for the
province and they want the electricity — either for here or to sell it,
and they’re moving on them as fast as they can.
“From all this we have this one agreement for the Rutherford
that would compensate the kayakers, but it’s not what we agreed on.”
Pique made inquiries of Innergex at their offices in Quebec but there was no reply as of press time.