News » Whistler

Protesters greet Ryan River public meeting

Pemberton meeting draws opponents from Lower Mainland



Scores of Pembertonians, and others, descended upon the old Pemberton Community Centre Thursday night to throw in two cents on a proposed run-of-river project on the Ryan River.

Many of those present didn’t have to speak to let their opinions be known — they wore nametags that read “No DAM way” and brought signs that read, “Keep the Ryan Wild” and “Stop the Ryan Ru(I)n of River Project.” Others concerned about what they see as threats to wildlife held pictures of fish and grizzlies.

Throughout the meeting comments from the audience ranged from questions about the privatization of B.C. rivers to outright accusations of theft.

Some Pemberton residents noted after the meeting that people who live outside the valley took up a lot of time asking questions, while local residents didn’t get as much opportunity to speak.

The meeting was part of a public consultation process overseen by the Environmental Assessment Office (EAO). That’s a joint office of the federal and provincial governments that brings together all departments and permitting agencies that review a run of river project before an environmental assessment can move forward.

The Ryan River project currently lies within the “Information Requirements for Application” phase. It’s the second of eight phases in the EAO’s review process.

The current phase, which includes accepting public comments on the project, will conclude Dec. 15. The next phase involves preparing and submitting an application to the EAO.

Regional Power Inc., a Toronto-based subsidiary of Manulife Financial, wants to establish a 145-megawatt run-of-river power plant on the Ryan River. The project will have a powerhouse with three to five turbine generators. Some of the river water will be diverted through a 9.5-km tunnel that will be burrowed through Sugarloaf Mountain.

The water will then enter the powerhouse at the end of the tunnel. A 26.5-km transmission line will carry the electricity from the Ryan River to a substation located near the Rutherford Creek Hydro Project powerhouse.

Electricity generated at the Ryan River plant will be fed into the Western Interconnection, a power grid that distributes electricity in Western North America, over the Rocky Mountains in Canada and south to Baja California in Mexico.

A unique feature of the project will be a man-made salmon habitat that will increase the fish population in the Ryan River, according to Nigel Protter, the principal of Exergetics Development Co. and a consultant who providing information about the project to Pemberton and surrounding communities.