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Upper Lillooet project draws little fire at public meeting

Kayakers express objections to run-of-river project north of Pemberton



Nearly two years after a movement against independent power producers swept the Pemberton Valley, the fervour seems to be waning.

That, at least, is the indication one got from a public meeting held at the Pemberton Community Centre on Tuesday night about the Upper Lillooet hydro project, a series of run-of-river facilities that have been advanced as part of BC Hydro's 2008 Clean Power Call.

The project, now in the public comment phase of a review by B.C.'s Environmental Assessment Office, will see hydro facilities developed in three locations: a 74 megawatt (MW) facility generator on the Lillooet River north of Keyhole Falls; a 23 MW facility on Boulder (Pebble) Creek; and a 16 MW facility on North Creek.

Creek Power Inc., a joint venture between Innergex and Ledcor, is pushing the project, which is estimated at a cost of $415 million.

Concerns raised at the meeting were light compared to the volume witnessed at a public meeting about the Ryan River hydro project in Pemberton two years ago.

Environmentalists from the Pemberton Valley, Whistler and elsewhere swarmed that meeting to express their opposition to the project, a 145 MW facility that would burrow a tunnel through Sugarloaf Mountain and divert the flow of the river to the other side.

Proponents Regional Power Inc. could barely make themselves heard over a roar of protest that saw opponents hold pictures of fish and bears, wildlife they thought would be negatively impacted by the project.

Joe Foy, an organizer with the Western Canada Wilderness Committee and a leading voice at the 2008 protest, said the organization didn't know that last Tuesday's meeting was taking place and that it's currently trying to hone in on which projects will actually go through.

"Many seem to have stalled," he said. "We're kind of in the process now of looking at the entire run-of-river situation in the province and trying to figure out which ones actually intend to go forward and which ones maybe just intend to raise money on the stock market."

If there exists any opposition, it likely comes from kayakers, and Josh Bayes is among them.

A salesman with Western Canoeing and Kayaking, which rents and sells kayaks to dozens of people every year from a headquarters based out of Abbotsford, he attended the public meeting last Tuesday to learn more about the project and relate some of his concerns to its proponents.

"The Whistler Pemberton area is known to be one of the best areas in southwestern BC for whitewater," he told Pique . "This may not be the case for long as literally every classic whitewater run has been targeted for hydro development. The people that came here to paddle are looking for a true wilderness experience, not an industrialized one.

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