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Kayakers to ‘inventory’ Sea to Sky streams

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Study will help guide LRMP process and power project applications

Local kayakers have less than one month to pool their collective knowledge of the whitewater rivers in the area, creating a comprehensive inventory for the provincial government.

The inventory will serve as a reference for the Sea to Sky LRMP process and for the independent power producers who are staking their claims on area waterways to create "green" energy.

"We wanted to tie this in with the LRMP and the adjudication of independent power projects that have been proposed," said Robert Gowan, project manager with the ministry of sustainable resource management.

The study will divide area rivers into three basic categories: rivers that are not paddled, rivers that are paddled a little and rivers that are highly used.

The inventory will include whitewater rivers where there is rafting, canoeing and kayaking. It will also identify some of the secondary uses of the streams.

"We're doing our best to identify and characterize all whitewater streams," said Ethan Askey, owner of Confluence, a local environmental consulting company heading up the inventory project.

"We're basing it on local expert knowledge."

Confluence specializes in forestry restoration, forestry watershed restoration and tourism development related work. As the name implies, most their work is related to water resource management.

Askey, a paddler of eight years and a former expedition rafting guide, is speaking with dozens of regional paddlers as well as some international paddlers who come to the Corridor to kayak.

The project is up against a tight timeline, as the government would like the study completed by the end of March to tie in with the end of their fiscal year.

But there are challenges of gathering this information during the winter.

"We can't go out in the field right now," said Gowan.

"This will be based on consultations with people who are in the know."

The timing of the inventory is also significant as discussions on the Sea to Sky LRMP move forward.

"It would be another set of information of recreational use in the LRMP area," said Gowan.

There are roughly 50 different streams that are being considered in the inventory, like the Callaghan, the Elaho and the Soo. Some of those streams have more than one run on them.

The inventory will guide power producers who are interested in setting up small hydroelectric projects on some of the same rivers.

As more projects are approved, like the Rutherford Power Project in Pemberton, kayakers are losing vital paddling streams.

The Rutherford Creek in particular is a highly used creek by the kayakers.

Recently, Rutherford Power Limited and the kayaking community compromised on the loss of the creek for paddlers, with the company agreeing to construct a 400 metre artificial stream that will run next to the creek.

The ministry is hoping the inventory can reduce conflict as the provincial government decides the future of area streams.

"We felt that if there was this inventory up front, power producers could see this and adjust according," said Gowan.

He said power producers could still apply to get a water license on a stream which is heavily paddled.

An inventory like this has never been done in B.C. Gowan said it is costing under $30,000.

"This could be the model for doing it in other parts of the province," he said.

The working title of the project is called the Sea to Sky Whitewater Stream Inventory for the Squamish Forest District.

While the main focus of the project is on whitewater paddling, the secondary focus is to identify other recreational uses of those paddling streams.

For anyone who would like more information or would like to offer some input into the process there is a public open house at the Squamish Library on March 19 from 4 to 8 p.m.

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