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Provincial information forces third public hearing on Ashlu IPP

Some SLRD board members cry ‘sabotage’



New information from the provincial government has forced the regional district to call a third public hearing for the proposed independent power project on the Ashlu Creek.

The regional district’s decision was made after the province responded to a recent Land and Resource Management Plan recommendation to ban IPP’s on select waterways in the corridor.

In a letter to the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District, George Abbott, minister of sustainable resource management, said the province would not consider the list of prohibited streams, which includes the Ashlu Creek near Squamish, from IPP development.

"We certainly are not going to interfere with that (the SLRD’s decision) but on the other hand we have committed to share information with them so that they can make the best, most informed decisions they can on these projects," Abbott said on Monday.

The fact that the letter was faxed to regional district office in Pemberton less than 24 hours before the board was to consider a staff recommendation to reject the Ashlu IPP last Friday, caused some board members to suggest the province was sabotaging the process.

"It wasn’t by accident," said Susan Gimse, the former chair of the SLRD board, adding she received a personal phone call from the minister to tell her about the faxed letter.

But Abbott dismisses those allegations.

"We neither intend(ed) to sabotage nor compel a third public hearing," he said. "Those are decisions that certainly are local government decisions, not our decisions.

"I think it would be ironic, to say the least, that one would interpret that sharing of information as anything other than constructive."

Just as the SLRD received the provincial letter, another fax came in from project developers Ledcor revealing detailed information about their draft water licence with Land and Water B.C.

SLRD Administrator Paul Edgington said based on legal advice, he felt the new information should come to the board’s attention and ultimately be made available to the public. That decision forced the board to call a third public hearing.

"This is information that the public would want an opportunity to respond to," said Edgington.

SLRD Director Russ Oakley said it boggles his mind to think that the letters from the province and Ledcor were a mere coincidence.

"I’m more than just a little offended," he said, adding that the third public hearing will incur more staff time and resources as well as more time and energy from the board members.

"They’re (the province) not paying for it, we are," he said.

The Ashlu Creek IPP is a run of river project, which would generate hydroelectric power. It fits the qualifications of B.C. Hydro’s green power projects.