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Pemberton residents stall Miller Creek power project



EPCOR will present alternative transmission solutions within six weeks

A showdown between Pemberton residents and a hydroelectric power producer has raised questions about the approval process for run-of-river projects in the province, said the director for Electoral Area C in the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District.

"The approval process that the province has is obviously flawed," said Susan Gimse, who spoke at last week's public meeting where more than 150 Pemberton residents turned out to speak against the latest construction phase for the Miller Creek hydroelectric project.

They told representatives of EPCOR, the Alberta-based energy company responsible for the project, that they would not accept additional hydro poles along the Pemberton Meadows Road.

Residents said that adding new hydro poles, some slated to be 15-feet higher than the original poles, along that road was never part of the original deal to transmit hydroelectric power from Miller Creek to the Pemberton substation and they asked EPCOR to come up with a new plan.

"The ball is back in EPCOR's hands right now in terms of coming up with other solutions," said Robbie Stevens, who lives on Pemberton Meadows Road and was pleased with the strong show of force from the community at the meeting.

Gimse said last week's meeting was crucial for Pemberton residents to have their concerns heard and halt construction of the project, as it could have implications to future projects in the area.

She added there are 56 applications within the Sea to Sky Corridor, 30 of which are slated to developed in her electoral area. (Some of these "applications" may just be at the stage of trying to get a water license, which is only the first step in a long process to ultimately produce power.)

In response to the pubic outcry, EPCOR presented possible solutions, including re-routing the power away from the residences on that road or moving the power underground.

"Each of the alternatives that we've uncovered so far has had its pros and cons," said David Morrow, vice president power development and acquisition at EPCOR.

The solution preferred by the community is the underground route said Gimse but this option will also be more costly to EPCOR and will take longer. Morrow estimates the underground routing can cost up to $5-million.

The plant, which is 26-megawatts, generates a little over $4-million each year in revenue so putting the development off for a year is costly.

Currently, the project has been put on hold until a solution can be reached. Morrow is hoping to come back with options within the next six weeks.

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