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Ure Creek power project ordered to vacate

Lil’wat Nation opposed development in ‘sacred area’



The Lil’wat Nation has succeeded in barring development of an independent waterpower project in a sacred area.

The proposed run-of-river hydroelectric power generating facility was to be situated on “Mkwa’lts,” a sacred area better known as Ure Creek that’s located about 11 kilometres south of Mount Currie.

Construction of the project was expected to start this year but the Province of B.C. has ordered Mkw’Alts Energy Ltd., the company driving the project, to vacate Ure Creek and leave the area in a “safe, clean and sanitary condition” by Dec. 5, according to a Lil’wat news release.

Lucinda Phillips, director of the Lil’wat Land and Resources Department, said in an interview that the project has been in the works since the year 2000. At that time a joint initiative between Cloudworks, a private developer of energy projects, and Innergex Renewable Energy Inc., a developer of renewable power-generating facilities, was brought to the Mount Currie chief and council.

In 2003, however, Mount Currie’s chief and council decided to oppose “any and all development activities” in Ure Creek because of its cultural and historical value to the Lil’wat Nation.

Phillips said the area is sacred because it is a burial site and has been an inspiration for numerous legends and stories.

“We’ve always heard the legends and the history of why our community wants to protect it,” she said. “I know we had some registered art sites there, one of our community members who used to take care of Ure Creek for a long time — he actually passed away — he took it upon himself to bury himself up there because of the sacredness of the area.”

The Lil’wat website says that Mkwa’lts is one of the “central focus areas” of Lil’wat culture. The website says it has a number of burial sites, named places and areas of “spiritual and ceremonial reverence.”

The area also has nearby wildlife, according to the website. Mountain goats live alongside the Ure Creek basin, while deer traverse the area where Ure Creek meets Lillooet Lake. Spotted owls live in the area. There’s also salmon-fishing in the watershed.

Discussions with the province about Ure Creek started around 2004, according to Phillips.

“We were always trying to get full protection of Ure Creek,” she said.

This isn’t the first time that the Lil’wat Nation has worked to protect development at Ure Creek. There were protests in the 1990s to stop logging in the area.

This time out, the Lil’wat Nation is happy that protest actions, such as road blocks, weren’t necessary to protect the Creek.

The Lil’wat Nation, however, isn’t overtly opposed to the idea of a run-of-river project, according to the news release. It said that in a number of cases, the Lil’wat Nation has been able to ensure that the companies developing the projects bring some economic benefits to the community.

Those benefits have included job opportunities, royalty payments and scholarship funds, according to Harriet vanWart, an employee with the Lil’wat Land and Resource Department.

“There’s areas within the Lil’wat territory where we realistically see that economic development has to happen,” she said. “If it’s done in a way that’s going to support the community, we’re willing to support it.”