Miller Creek on the SLRD agenda subhead: Weekend open house positive By Paul Andrew It appears as though local opinion on the Miller Creek Power Project, proposed for the Miller Creek Watershed north of Pemberton, has turned in the developer’s favour. The Squamish-Lillooet Regional District will hear a presentation to rezone the land so developer David Andrews can go ahead with what will become an independent power project, capable of supplying power to the equivalent of some 10,000 homes. The meeting is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 23. Up until recently, Andrews, president of Miller Creek Power Limited, was facing what seemed to be overwhelming opposition to the project, even though he says MCPP was doing everything by the book, investigating every potential environmental impact. He has also agreed to donate at least $150,000 to the community of Pemberton — even though the project is outside the Village of Pemberton’s boundaries. Andrews says the response to the project at an open house on Aug. 13 and 14 was encouraging. "The meeting went very well," Andrews said. "Everyone there but one was in favour. It wasn’t that busy. Only 35 people showed up over two days. But the comments were all positive." Andrews said comments such as: "Very well studied; This will provide jobs; makes sense, no if and or buts about it"; and "I think it will benefit our community" were not uncommon among the residents who did come out to the open house. He says the recent effort at community outreach was the reason for the encouraging news. "I am feeling pretty positive about it. And I would like to thank everyone for coming out," Andrews said about the open house. Rick Staehli, who owns some land which will provide access to the power line route proposed for the project, said he has no problem with Andrews using his land for the route. There may be a financial benefit later, Staehli said, but the important thing right now is the project get the green light for development. "We have logging companies come in here over the years and rape and pillage the land and never have they offered the community one dollar," Staehli said. "Now we finally get a developer in here who offers the community some real cash and the SLRD says no? It had better be on that agenda this Monday." Staehli say his family has owned the land directly below the project area since 1957. He and a neighbour control some access to the area through their lands. Staehli says it’s the first time he’s seen anyone pay experts to make certain a project will not damage the environment or move any wildlife out of its habitat. "The powerline will run through my property but we haven’t discussed any payment of any sort. Not for a powerline. But if there is eventually a road built through there, by the Crown or by other parties, then that means it will take up five acres of land." Staehli, who is general manager of the Whistler Housing Authority and before that, was the director of the BC Housing Management Commission, says the 35 people in attendance at the open house last weekend might not be huge numbers, but if one in 35 disagree in the community, then those are good odds. "I don’t think the SLRD had the right to leave it off its agenda last time," he added. The independent power project will not be part of the BC Hydro power grid, and Andrews has not said he has any buyers for the 25 megawatts the $30 million project will produce. Since the first stories on the MCPP in early June, Andrews has hired communications consultant Kevin Hanson from Optimum public relations in Vancouver. Hanson said although he has not been directly involved in the "inner workings" of the power project, he thinks good public relations have been the key to opening the re-zoning door. "I don’t think there was sufficient indication of public support, last time we tried for a meeting with the SLRD," Hanson said. "So I’m not sure there has been this turnaround in public support. But there were some unanswered questions and I think we’ve taken care of that now." A power outage in June in the Pemberton area, shortly after the MCPP was rejected by the SLRD, was used as an example by Andrews when he said Pemberton would not have to suffer anymore six or eight hour blackouts in the area if the project went ahead. However, last week BC Hydro announced it was installing a new switch in the area designed to reduce the service restoration time. The switch is scheduled to be installed sometime in November.