Despite public skepticism, Western Geopower representatives were happy with the outcome of two information meetings last week on its proposed geothermal power project and transmission lines.
Western Geopower’s public policy manager, Craig Aspinall, said he expected some skepticism about the transmission lines in particular after what Pemberton area residents have dealt with in the past.
"We certainly weren’t surprised by the expression of skeptism on the part of a lot of people in both the Birken and Pemberton valleys," said Aspinall. "Some of the people in Birkenhead for example were referring back to two problems with B.C. Hydro, which goes back very many years and refers to the construction of hydro lines.
"More recently, we’ve had the controversy with the Miller Creek project when they had some design changes with their transmission poles."
Aspinall said a "good cross-section" of the community attended two meetings where Western Geopower described their plans to build a geothermal plant near Meager Creek which could supply power to more than 80,000 homes for a lifetime.
There are three potential routes for the power lines. The first option, the Hurley route, is the one Western Geopower is pursuing and also the most popular with local government and the community. The power lines would parallel the Hurley logging road and connect with a power grid near Lillooet.
The second option would travel north of Pemberton and connect near Birken, while the third route would come straight down the valley through Pemberton Meadows and connect with the hydro lines in Pemberton.
"A couple of things come out of the meetings and one of the major expressions that we had from Birkenhead Estates was that we were not planning on building the large steel towers that carry the large 500 KV lines," said Aspinall. "What our line would require is the wooden H frame configeration.
"The thing we also wanted to emphasize is that we keep being asked by the (provincial) Environmental Assessment Office to pay more attention to the Pemberton valley route because historically that’s been a (logging) transportation corridor. But our response is that we’ve recognized that there’s very strong opposition on the part of the district and the residents of the valley.
"So while that has to remain an option, we have set that aside while we look at the Birkenhead and Hurley Valley options."
Squamish-Lillooet Regional District Chair Susan Gimse confirmed that the SLRD had already sent a letter regarding the transmission lines to the Minister of Sustainable Resource Management, George Abbott.
"We’ve identified a number of potential power project sites up in that area north of Meager Creek," said Gimse. "And we felt that the power producers (like Ledcor who have plans to develop several run-of-river projects) should be getting together and collaborating to build a transmission line that could move the power from a number of different projects and keep it away from the populated areas."