Pemberton opposes power project Miller Creek to produce major revenue By Paul Andrew A private power project in Pemberton which has the potential to generate hydro for some 10,000 homes elsewhere in Canada has been rejected by local governments in the early stages of the approval process. But those same local governments don’t think the project is dead, yet. The Miller Creek Power Company, owned by businessman David Andrews and based in Vancouver, has apparently been in the works since 1991, but until now residents of the Pemberton Valley say they were in the dark about the project. Miller Creek begins less than 15 kilometres north of Pemberton Village, but the power would most likely go to Alberta via the existing BC Hydro power line. Andrews said nothing has been done yet in the area, but he said the project would be good for Pemberton because of the potential revenue generated locally, and because of the man hours of labour which would also benefit the community. "We’re planning a small project," Andrews said. "It would be enough to power 10,000 homes. About 25 mega watts. But it’s a catch-22 situation because it’s a $30 million project and we don’t have a buyer of the power yet. BC Hydro doesn’t need the power so it would most likely go out of the province." However, at a May 31 meeting among the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District, the village of Pemberton and the Miller Creek Power Co., an application to re-zone the Crown land where the project would ultimately take shape was rejected by the SLRD. Pemberton Mayor Cathy McLeod said all village councillors are "adamantly" opposed to the project, even though the power company promises to build a recreation centre in Pemberton if the project is approved. "It has limited community benefits," McLeod said. "Plus the environmental issues are a concern. As far as the offer to the community from Mr. Andrews, the $40,000 for a recreation centre, it’s contingent on the application to re-zone the land. So it’s like buying a re-zoning application." An eight-page letter from Andrews points out the community benefits, such as an annual payment of local government and school taxes totalling $250,000, which would add up to $10 million for the life of the project. Tax revenue would average $1.65 million annually and the company said it would contribute a $150,000 lump-sum toward the recreation centre. "That project is actually too far out of Pemberton for us to benefit on the taxes," McLeod explained. "It would probably go to the province — not to Pemberton." The news for Miller Creek Power Co. got even grimmer Monday evening when a petition with 155 names opposing the use of North and South Miller Creek was presented at the Pemberton meeting. The petition is in addition to nine homeowners who have written letters opposing the project, and one company that is in favour of the idea. Andrews says the Mount Currie Indian Band would eventually become part owners if the project went though, because Miller Creek is on "traditional" native land. Although residents in the area claim little or no knowledge of the project, Andrews says an open house was held last Oct. 1 in Pemberton and was well publicised in advance. Approximately $1 million has been invested in the proposed power project since 1991. "If all goes well, we’d like to start in September. The construction would take about two years," Andrews said. "And we would hire locally where ever we could, with the exception of the engineers of course." Pemberton resident Patrick Meagher, who is a bronze sculptor by trade, said he and others vehemently oppose a hydro-electric power project in the area. "I just found out about his on the weekend," Meagher said when contacted by Pique on May 27. "There’s all sort of fishy thing going on up there. The natives have been promised a percentage if they keep quiet... and the (BC Hydro) power lines are five-feet from my house. I do plan on building farther back from the road later. But we don’t need any more powerlines in the valley." The power lines from the project would double up on the existing power lines along Pemberton Meadows Road. However, Andrews said in his May 27 newsletter that BC Hydro initially quoted an "unacceptably high" cost to use its line because of the need to maintain power through the duration of the private project. Now Andrews is suggesting a new wood-pole power line on the opposite side of the road. Power would be generated not by a conventional dam, but by diverting water form North Miller Creek to South Miller Creek through an underground pipe 4,200 metres in length. All the water would be returned to the creek. BC Hydro spokesman Wayne Cousins said anyone can build a private power project, without approval or guidance from BC Hydro. Cousins also said Hydro would consider the doubling up of power lines on its poles should the project ever get to that stage. "We’ve never been involved in that project," Cousins said. McLeod says she is not counting out provincial interference on the project, even though the community and the SLRD are not in favour of the whole thing. "Well, it’s desperation time in this province isn’t it, as far as economics goes," McLeod said. "And the project is proposed on Crown land. So no, I don’t think this is over yet."