The Ryan River hydro project could soon be a step closer to reality as its proponents prepare to submit terms of reference (TOR) to the Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) by the end of the month.
A March 24 report to the Village of Pemberton council stated that the final draft terms of reference for the project could be submitted to the EAO by the end of March. Terms of reference set out the scope of the project and lay out its purpose and structure along with various other facets.
Once those terms are approved by the EAO, Regional Power Inc., the Toronto-based company that's proposing the Ryan River Project, will make its formal application for an environmental assessment certificate - a key step it must take before the project can come to fruition.
The Village of Pemberton has also requested that it be included in the consultation process established through the EAO, a joint office of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) and the provincial Ministry of Environment.
A next step for the Ryan River project is a Cumulative Effects Assessment (CEA) that will look at the impacts of the project in combination with other effects past, present and future, and how it could impact an ecosystem.
The CEA, once it begins, will look at a "greater area than the footprint of the project" and evaluate the consequences of other past, present and future actions around the ecosystem. A CEA for the Ryan, the report reads, will assess the project for its impacts on the environment in combination with other human actions in the project area.
"Once the EAO approves the terms of reference, which sets out all the information that will be required in the application, then the proponent will make their application," Lori Pilon, administrator for the VOP, said in an interview.
"If we identify that cumulative effects are an issue, then they will tell us how they're going to address it when they make their terms of reference."
Nigel Protter, a Pemberton resident and consultant who's working with Regional Power to design and develop the Ryan River project, said the proponents may not submit their final draft terms of reference by the end of March, adding that they have "six years" of baseline data on the project and have already been looking at cumulative impacts.
"I think it'll take a little longer based on a few non-environmental issues that we need to work out with our neighbours in the valley," he said. "These are just archaeological studies and historical use studies, First Nations and all kinds of things like that, and these are things you have to do and they take time and you can't do them when there's snow on the ground and all these things.
"It may take a little longer than March, maybe April or May or June, we're still hoping to break ground in the spring of 2010."
Council received the report without any discussion of the project.
The Ryan River project has nevertheless been a subject of controversy in the Sea to Sky corridor amidst a wave of protest activities focused on run of river hydro projects in general.
The Ryan project, which is designed to have a capacity of 145 MW, involves digging a tunnel of nearly 10 km through Sugarloaf Mountain and diverting the flow of the river into a power generator located on the other side.
Opponents feel that having independent power companies run these projects amounts to privatizing B.C.'s rivers, while proponents feel they're necessary to meeting the province's energy needs.
Pemberton council also put through a bylaw that designates the parking lot at the popular Pony Espresso as town-centre commercial space - a "housekeeping item" according to Pilon, since it did not have its proper designation in village bylaws before.
The council meeting also came just after Pemberton has received almost $1 million in funding from the federal and provincial governments.
Pemberton is receiving the following funding:
• $400,000 in funding for a water metering and leak detection project;
• $40,000 for improvements to the One Mile Lake accessible trail;
• $482,167 through B.C.'s Strategic Community Investment Fund, a restructured program to get funding to communities faster;
• $6,000 for a Village Tree Way project;
• $1,432 from the province's Climate Action Revenue Incentive Program as a rebate for carbon taxes