Transmission lines are once again a matter of concern for Pemberton as it grapples with a hydro project planned for the Upper Lillooet River region.
Creek Power Inc., a joint venture between Innergex and Ledcor, gave a public presentation to Pemberton council last week to introduce a cluster of run-of-river projects they've dubbed the Upper Lillooet Hydro Project. Together they expect to generate up to 113 MW.
They entered BC Hydro's Clean Power Call as three separate projects: the Upper Lillooet, North Creek and Boulder Creek, but now they're being considered together. The Upper Lillooet is the largest of the three, with a generating capacity of 74 MW.
The North Creek project initially had a capacity of 16 MW and Boulder Creek was 23 MW, but because they're being taken together they will have to go through an environmental assessment mandated by the Environmental Assessment Office, a process that includes a public comment period.
Transporting electricity from the project will require approximately 72 kilometres of transmission lines that would take the power from a powerhouse at the Upper Lillooet facility, along the Lillooet River to North Creek, where it would cross the river.
It would then traverse the valley near the Ryan River where it would leave the valley floor, head over a ridge and follow a route similar to the one planned for the Ryan River project. The Ryan River project is not advancing as part of the latest Clean Power Call and thus may not be developed first.
The transmission corridor would then reach the point of interconnection with the Rutherford Creek project, which is also owned by Innergex, and connect to a 230 kV power line.
Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy expressed some concern that a transmission route had already been chosen without first consulting the local government.
"I think there's been some decisions made with regard to routing and we haven't seen that other routes are options," he said. "Bill 30 is in place and we don't really have a lot to say about anything, we have a lot to say but whether we're heard or not is another question."
Bill 30, introduced in 2006, amended section 121 of the province's Utilities Commission Act, which previously accorded discretion to local governments to give zoning to utilities. Bill 30 changed that; local government land-use decisions could no longer stop the construction of a public utility.
Sturdy also asked the developers what kind of a community benefit they would consider offering Pemberton since he expects the project and its associated infrastructure could have an impact on the community.
"When I asked specifically whether there was an opportunity for a community benefit, the response was that community benefits are only provided if there are community impacts," he said. "They don't believe there are community impacts."
Natalie Closs, project manager for the Upper Lillooet facilities, said the companies haven't yet assessed any contributions they might make to Pemberton.
She said BC Hydro has already extended electricity purchase agreements to Creek Power... even before the final drafts of the project have been submitted for the environmental assessment. A project can be denied an environmental assessment certificate at any time in that process. Without a certificate, it doesn't go forward.
Asked what could happen if the project doesn't get an environmental assessment, Closs said, "then we've invested a lot of money and we don't have a project."