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SLRD won’t delay IPP decision despite residents’ request

Ashlu Creek public hearing expected in the coming months, other approvals in place



The Squamish-Lillooet Regional District will not delay making a decision on the controversial Ashlu Creek Independent Power Project in the coming months despite a recent plea from community members.

At Monday’s regular board meeting a delegation of residents from the Upper Squamish Valley, including Tom Rankin, appealed to the SLRD board members to postpone their consideration of the rezoning application for the Ashlu Creek IPP.

"We feel that the process is being purchased," said Rankin, who represents 80 per cent of the local residents, totalling roughly 80 people.

"It’s all money at work."

The residents, who have formed the Upper Squamish Valley Rural Association, have filed an objection against the project with the Land and Water BC. That objection sets in motion a process where the Minister of Sustainable Resources must decide whether or not a hearing is necessary for the application.

The residents asked for a delay in the SLRD process to allow their objection to go through the proper process.

The proposed run of river project on the Ashlu Creek, roughly 35 kilometres northwest of Squamish, is one of a number of power project applications on creeks and rivers in the Sea to Sky corridor.

Considered "green" energy sources, run of river projects divert a portion of water from the creek and funnel it down a steep pipeline to a powerhouse. There the water is used to make energy through powerful turbines before it is directed back into the creek.

In addition to producing enough energy for 23,000 homes per year, which is enough energy for all the homes in the SLRD, the Ashlu Creek proponents also intend to provide a number of community amenities.

"The approach we’ve taken is to provide specific contributions to the community as part of the project based on the actual needs," said Ledcor Power’s Project Manager Kelly Boychuk, after Monday’s meeting.

"Whether it’s an IPP project or a new pulp mill or something, there’s always some kind of benefits that are (given) to the community as part of these projects."

Boychuk used the new Rutherford Creek Power Project, located halfway between Whistler and Pemberton, as an example.

Part of the community benefits to the SLRD in that project included the construction of an Olympic-calibre kayaking park, running for almost one kilometre alongside the creek.

The park was constructed as part of a deal between the power developers and the Whitewater Kayaking Association of British Columbia because the kayakers lost one of the area’s most popular kayaking runs after the project’s construction.

Proposed community benefits from the Ashlu include a $250,000 contribution to repair the Cheakamus River Bridge deck.

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