Opinion » Letters to the Editor

Letters to the editor for the week of May 16th

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Transparency important

I understand the (publisher Bob Barnett's) point in downplaying (ridiculing) the significance of the RMOW's "award" as the most secretive government in Canada.

Honestly — the award and accompanying comments did have the hallmark of a junior high hissy fit...

Still, at all levels of government in our democracy, I don't believe there is such a thing as too much openness or too much access. The RMOW doesn't have secret codes (Launch or DaVinci) to protect but, as is often stated, it's the perception of access as much as the practical and actual openness that is crucial in our democracy; for the citizen and the Fifth Estate alike.

The legal requirement to protect some negotiations, Human (Resources) and personnel privacy issues is in place — everything (else) should be a wide-open book.

Citizen participation in government, we are told, is crucial in a democracy. Anything that can be in place to generate participation and promote activism should be encouraged.  

In the healthy democracy, which we live in — government policy, action, consultations, expenditures, (some secrets) and intent need to be accessible in a timely, easy and transparent manner.

B. Keith Buchholz 

Whistler

Thanks to my favourite eight year old 

As the founder and original organizer of the Father & Daughter Dance, I would like to thank Janel Ryan for inviting my daughter Meagan and myself back to the 20th Anniversary of this now "Hallmark" event.

It made us very proud to see the tradition has lived on in its true original spirit, and although 20 years has passed (Meagan is now 26) the great vibes haven't changed.

Thanks to all the dads and daughters for keeping this special event alive, and congratulations to the organizing committee for all its hard work.

Alan and Meagan Lande

Whistler

Best planning practices needed

The Upper Lillooet Hydroelectric Project (ULHP) received its Environmental Assessment Certificate from the B.C. Government on January 8.

Accompanying the certificate is a "Table of Conditions" that Innergex, the proponent, must comply with. The extensive conditions include approximately 30 plans nested within the "Construction Environmental Management Plan" that include access management, fish salvage, and management plans for a variety of species including grizzly bears and mountain goats. Additional stipulations include participation — including financial contribution — in the B.C. government's regional Grizzly Bear Monitoring Plan, plus mitigation measures for other species such as wolverine, moose and mule deer. Some of these plans must be completed 30 days before construction can start.

On April 30 the Pemberton Wildlife Association (PWA) sent a letter to the minister of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations, Steve Thomson, the Environmental Assessment Office and others in government, as well as Innergex. In that letter the PWA included the following points: Given the importance of minimizing the impacts of the ULHP, that there needs to be meaningful public consultation and opportunity for review of the Access, grizzly bear, fish and other plans stipulated in the Environmental Assessment Certificate so that the plans are not developed solely by conversations between the B.C. government and Innergex.

Given the valley's regional importance to four threatened grizzly bear population units, and the cumulative impacts and very possible spin-offs of the ULHP, Innergex should be required to fund a substantial and adequate portion of the Grizzly Bear Monitoring Plan and research in the upper Lillooet valley. Additionally, the contribution amount should be made public and be maintained if the ULHP changes hands.

There remain ongoing concerns about the routing of Innergex's powerline through the Ryan River valley. Scientific research continues to identify the Ryan watershed as an extraordinarily important regional habitat hub for the threatened grizzly bears in Sea to Sky. An Innergex power line in the Ryan will likely bring more pressure to see IPPs developed in the unprotected Ryan.

The ULHP is a controversial project with significant local opposition. It will create major change in the upper Lillooet valley and it will have significant and almost surely permanent impacts. The project's power line is proposed to have more capacity than just the power that the three powerhouses of the ULHP would generate. That creates concern that the ULHP will reinvigorate interest in development of the other streams already "staked" for private power production in the upper Lillooet valley, thus resulting in greater cumulative impacts than acknowledged.

However, the fact remains that it does have an Environmental Assessment Certificate so, if it is going ahead, it is important to ensure that the best planning, aided by expert local knowledge, is incorporated in order to minimize the inevitable impacts, and that Innergex step up to contribute substantially to grizzly bear monitoring and research.

Johnny Mikes

Whistler

WORCA rolls out thanks

WORCA has had a busy start to the season with three trail days, two fundraisers, a raffle and a huge turnout of 337 riders to the first Toonie ride.

First we'd like to thank the Creekbread Restaurant for hosting our benefit night in April. It was an incredibly successful event and $4,500 was raised for our trail building program. With over 50 silent auction items donated it is difficult to thank each of you here but we are very grateful to all of you for your contributions. Paul Fournier, a.k.a. DJ Mixmaster Fab, filled the room with good tunes and the evening was a great way for members to reconnect after a long winter.

We also raised a lot of funds for trails through raffle ticket sales. A big thanks to Summit Sport for donating a Trek mountain bike for the grand prize and for setting up a tent at the Bike Swap to help sell raffle tickets. Thank-you also to the Hairfarmers, Mark Richards Gallery, Skiis & Biikes, and TAG Cycling for donating fantastic prizes.  

Despite the rain and wind, the Annual Bike Swap still saw a long line of expectant buyers looking for deals.

Thank-you to the RMOW for your assistance in planning this event and to Sabre Rentals and Whistler Blackcomb for your contributions. We are very grateful to James from The Fix who donated his time and expertise to be the on-site mechanic to help buyers with questions about the bikes.

The swap volunteers deserve special recognition for working hard all day in the soggy weather and they were very grateful for the hot coffee and good eats donated by Blenz, Dups Burritos and Pasta Lupino — thanks everyone!

The money raised at the swap subsidizes the Youth Dirt Camp program and helps WORCA maintain affordable pricing for Whistler families.

Our new Director of Fundraising, Hilary Davison, worked very hard to make our fundraising events and raffle such a success — kudos to you Hilary!

Lastly, we would like to thank our supportive mountain biking community that makes all of this happen.

It has been busy and it's only just beginning. We look forward to a fun summer of biking and good times!

Ride on...

Louise MacDougall, WORCA Director of Public Relations

On behalf of the WORCA Board

What's going on Whistler?

What is Whistler coming to?

While driving home from work at 3 a.m. Saturday morning I passed the Bayshores bus shelter (and the) glass was completely smashed (sad to say this is not uncommon during the summer), and then BOOM, it sounded like a cannon — my windshield was smashed and I had glass all over me.

A rock the size of a softball had been thrown at the truck — fortunately I'm OK. If anyone hears around the grapevine anyone who may be taking ownership of this cowardly act please inform the Whistler RCMP.

C'mon Whistler, we are better than this.

Jono Young

Whistler

Coyote warning

FYI —bikers with dogs, on May 11, three of us and our two dogs were having a water break at the entrance to Yummy Nummy (on the dirt road above the Fairmont Golf Course) when a large coyote came out of the woods behind us.

It stood in the middle of the access road, about 25 metres away from us, and gave a yelp, our dogs bolted after it.

The three of us ran screaming for the dogs, grabbing rocks to throw, crashing through the bushes after them. There were probably up to five other coyotes in the brush, barking and yelping.

Eventually, probably after a minute or two, our dogs came back unharmed, but it was a scary experience.

I have heard coyotes will use this tactic of sending one coyote out to entice a dog into the woods where the pack is waiting to attack.

Heads up to everyone out in the woods to be aware. My dog is not small — he's a solid 75 pounds, and although the other dog is smaller, he is still a medium sized dog.

Tara Geach

Whistler

B4BC 4 Megs says thanks

I personally wanted to express an immense amount of gratitude for all who participated and contributed in the B4BC 4 MEGS event at Merlins on April 17, during the World Ski and Snowboard Festival.

There seemed to be two decades of snowboarders and snow industry people that I have essentially grown up with there. Artists, snowboarders, skiers, musicians, passionate souls and then some. All contributed and created a really beautiful night for my husband and I.

It was community — our town, industries, and all the amazing people who lend creativity, kindness, positivity and love to it were there. And I will not only carry this magic with pride throughout my cancer treatments, but forever, and I truly mean that!

Thank you Chris at Whistler Blackcomb, John and the entire staff at Merlins, and Johan and The Summit Lodge. All the girls at Boarding for Breast Cancer I will love forever. The list of those who helped organize this event is long —those who donated their time, products, money and love is even longer.

My heart is full of gratitude and appreciation.

Humbled and healing.

Megan Pischke

Squamish

Opposed to river diversion

I live in Pemberton, B.C. and oppose Creek Power Inc.'s proposed Upper Lillooet River diversion project. This joint venture between Innergex Renewable Energy Inc. and Ledcor involves building two hydroelectric facilities, including one at our iconic Key Hole Falls, and a 72-kilometre transmission line along Pemberton Valley.

I was one of the 200 locals who attended the March 18 public meeting on river diversion projects, which was organized by local residents. Gwen Barlee, Policy Director of the Wilderness Committee, and Dr. Craig Orr, Executive Director of Watershed Watch Salmon Society, provided detailed information about the environmental and financial impacts of river diversion projects.

Gwen Barlee highlighted the negative impacts these projects have on fish, wildlife and the often-pristine wilderness areas where these Independent Power Producers (IPPs) construct river diversion projects.

She mentioned the river diversion project on Kokish River, Vancouver Island, which was allowed to be built even though Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) biologists were opposed to the project because Kokish River is home to five species of wild salmon, two endangered runs of steelhead, cutthroat trout and eulachon.

Thanks to documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, Gwen Barlee discovered why the project was approved. I quote: "The process was rejected by all the scientists, marine biologists, forestry experts... as being an ecological disaster." The message presented to higher ups in the DFO had been massaged over and over, watering down the research showing the negative impacts on fish and their habitat, which enabled the project to be approved.

I think the same thing may have happened with Creek Power Inc.'s Upper Lillooet River Hydro project because government biologists reviewing this project as part of the environmental assessment process stated that the project's impacts on grizzly bears could not be "meaningfully mitigated." The provincial government has, however, issued a conditional environmental assessment certificate.

How can we as Canadians trust our municipal, provincial and federal governments when we know they often compromise the health of our public lands, forests and rivers for short-term economic gain? Why are taxpayers paying the salaries of government biologists whose expert opinions are ignored by their higher ups?

Do we live in a democracy or in a "corporatocracy," which is an economic and political system controlled by corporations or corporate interests benefiting only the one per cent sitting on the thrones?

I am against change for the worst (destruction of our ecosystem) but not against change for the better.

Readers should also note that in addition to our environment, IPPs will ruin BC Hydro, a Crown corporation that used to provide millions of dollars to the public coffers and hence to B.C. residents. Thanks to Liberal government policy and legislation, BC Hydro is forced to buy power from IPPs at a higher rate than it can produce and sell power. BC Hydro has signed over $50 billion worth of electricity purchase agreements with IPPs, which means B.C. taxpayers are on the hook for this amount. IPPs are still greasing politicians' pockets to allow them to destroy our rivers and to bankrupt BC Hydro so that they can control the power and water. In addition to being unethical, BC Hydro has a ten-year energy surplus so there is no need to ruin our rivers and backcountry.

IPPs only offer us limited benefits in terms of very short-term construction jobs but the harmful impacts on our environment and wildlife will have long-term repercussions. Do we wait until it is too late and regret not having stood up against the project when we had the chance? Or do we stand up now as communities across B.C. to ensure our rivers and backyard are protected from corporate greed and political folly?

I believe we live in Canada, where the people have democratic rights where we can stand up for what we want. Let us unite and put an end to Creek Power Inc.'s Upper Lillooet River Hydro project and other river diversion projects. Yes to promoting green alternative renewable energy, such as solar, and educating the public about energy conservation.

No to "corporatocracy." Yes to intelligent democracy. Wake up Pemberton and B.C. residents; let our voices be heard before it is too late.

Marwan Abouhalka

Pemberton

IPPs have long history

Independent Power Projects (IPP), rapid transit, wood-framed apartment buildings over four floors etc. are great ideas that ill-informed provincial government advisers who couldn't be bothered to actually see how these were properly done elsewhere, have managed to turn into disasters.

IPPs have been used, mainly outside North America, for quite a while now. For the most part they were never meant to be an industrial venture requiring dams across a river, new roads and long distance power lines etc.

They were an easy way to provide very economical energy to a single house, a small factory, or a village, right by a river and without damaging it.

In many cases a centuries old water mill that had long ceased to produce flour or oil, or an abandoned short derivation canal of a long ago destroyed water mill, were simply retrofitted with a small turbine.

Eons ago I was studying the art of building roads, bridges, sewers etc. in a small town in the mountainous Auvergne region of central France, well known in the rest of the country for its harsh winter climate (and the thriftiness of the natives who make the Scots look like careless spenders).

One of our science teachers was renovating an old water mill on one of the many small rivers in the area. The hydro line that linked his home to a village many kilometres away was unreliable in winter, so he bought a small used turbine, fixed it in the college workshop, installed it and, from then on, got free electricity.

In those days EDF, the French national hydro company, didn't even think of buying power from people like him.

In the past 12 years that hydro company (it now does business in 30 foreign countries) has actively helped homeowners and small businesses to audit the energy consumption of their homes or business then do whatever is needed to save as much energy as possible (energy saving is now a legal requirement in Europe). This includes — besides first insulating the building and replacing old doors and windows — wood pellets for stoves, solar panels, small windmills, heat pumps etc. and of course micro hydro power plants.

Some European real estate companies specialize in water mills, from those already in working order to ruins that are too romantic to be left abandoned.

J-L Brussac

Coquitlam