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Whistler-Blackcomb supportive of Fitzsimmons hydro project



Run-of-river project fits with sustainability, environmental initiatives

Standing on the bridge over Fitzsimmons Creek on the Little Spearhead Traverse, you can’t see or hear the massive ski operations taking place on either side of the valley.

The Fitz, as it’s know to locals, is at its lowest and slowest at this time of the year. One day, however, this quiet creek could provide enough electricity on an annual basis to power all the lights and lifts of Whistler-Blackcomb, the biggest mountain resort in North America – providing that the public supports the project, that is.

"We respect our community and we would not do this if our community didn’t want it," says Arthur DeJong, the Mountain Planning and Environmental Resource Manager for Whistler-Blackcomb. "However, in the same breath, we have committed ourselves to sustainability within our own ecological footprint. Therefore this is a project that we cannot walk away from if we’re sincere about becoming environmentally sustainable."

Ledcor Power Inc., at the invitation of Whistler-Blackcomb, has applied to build a $14 million run-of-the-river small hydro plant on Fitzsimmons Creek. At the end of last year Ledcor signed a conditional contract with B.C. Hydro that approved the project in principle, providing that Ledcor can meet all of the power utility’s green power requirements.

According to Ledcor, a number of studies have already been completed on the Fitzsimmons, but more are needed before the contract can go from conditional to concrete.

DeJong is confident that the project will meet those requirements. He has been looking into the possibility of installing micro hydro within Whistler-Blackcomb’s Controlled Recreation Area (CRA) since 1994, when the mountain adopted its Environmental Management System.

He still sees power as one of the key obstacles to environmental sustainability, and has looked into the various green power options available to the mountains. Solar power wasn’t an option due to the frequent cloud cover and Whistler’s limited exposure to the sun because of the mountains. While it is frequently windy in the alpine, wind power requires the kind of constant wind velocity that the prairies experience. Micro hydro was the option that made the most sense under the circumstances, and it is recognized and sold as green power by B.C. Hydro.

"I think about global warming every day," says DeJong. "I walk out of my house in the morning and look at the thermometer by the door, and I see it at zero degrees in the middle of winter. I wonder what the snow pack is going to look like in 20 years if global warning is not resolved.

"The more I look at this project on the Fitzsimmons, the more I like it. There probably isn’t another proposed micro hydro project in the province that makes as much sense, or is as environmentally benign as this one."

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