The translucent blue waters of Miller Creek tumble down from Coast Mountain glaciers and peaks towards the Lillooet River. Here, on the wet coast of British Columbia, water usually runs downhill. But at Miller Creek, it seems that water runs uphill towards money.
The creek, located about five kilometres north of Pemberton, is the site of a "green" run-of-river hydroelectric power project and after two years of public meetings and some controversy, things are finally starting to flow smoothly.
"There is no question it will benefit the community," said Susan Gimse, chair of the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District.
The Miller Creek development was recently sold by Rutherford Creek Power Ltd., formerly known as Miller Creek Power Ltd., to an Alberta-based energy company.
The sale comes on the heels of an electricity purchase agreement that was concluded last October between RCPL and B.C. Hydro.
"We knew early in the process that the project would be sold," commented Gimse, who is also the regional director for Area C, which covers an area that includes Pemberton Meadows and the Mount Currie-DArcy and Whistler-Pemberton corridors.
Edmontons EPCOR Power Development Co. bought the small-scale, run-of-river project last week for an undisclosed sum. Miller Creek is the second small-scale hydroelectric project EPCOR has acquired in B.C.
With the B.C. Hydro agreement and the sale of the project now complete, the SLRD has received a one-time payment of $175,000 from RCPL.
According to Gimse, the money is currently being held in trust and will eventually be used to fund community projects in Pemberton including a new recreation centre, a community school and playing field that will benefit local residents.
The SLRD will also receive annual payments of $40,000 throughout the projects operation. RCPL vice-president Nick Andrews said the project will generate $1.8 million for the SLRD over a 40-year period.
"Were pleased to see the Miller Creek project reach this stage," he said, "and to see financial benefits begin to flow to the local community."
As part of the purchase agreement, the new owners will honour all previous agreements with the SLRD, the Village of Pemberton and the Mount Currie Indian Band.
The Mount Currie band will assume part ownership of the development once the project becomes profitable and band members will be given first crack at the 550 construction jobs.
"People trusted Miller Creek (Power Ltd.) and, hopefully, well have that same level of trust with EPCOR," Pemberton Mayor Elinor Warner told Pique Newsmagazine.
"EPCOR has a track record of building sustainable projects and strong community partnerships," Andrews said. "All of the commitments we have made to the community remain in place."
Construction of the "green" run-of-river facility which uses the natural flow and elevation drop of a river, rather than a dam, to power turbines is to start this summer. The project is slated to begin producing power by May 2003.
Meanwhile, RCPL, as their name suggests, has recently proposed another "green" power project, on Rutherford Creek south of Pemberton.
Earlier this week, the SLRD held an "uneventful" public hearing on RCPLs rezoning application, said Gimse. "We were there for 20 minutes. It was a big surprise."
Previously, public hearings on the Miller Creek development lasted for hours but, according to Gimse, local residents concerns seem to be placated with the success of that project. "It certainly helped," she said.
"People seem to accept these smaller projects," added Warner.
RCPL held a public information meeting on the Rutherford Creek proposal last November and submitted a detailed environmental and socio-economic review to the B.C. government in January 2001.
According to Warner, small-scale developments such as the Miller and Rutherford creek projects help bring money into the Village of Pembertons coffers. "Otherwise wed have to increase taxes," she said. "Green power is good."