Pemberton council looked for ways the village could benefit from the proposed Upper Lillooet Hydro Project when reviewing the plans during Tuesday’s (July 3) committee of the whole session.
The project, which calls for run-of-river generator stations to be placed on the Lillooet River, Boulder Creek and North Creek, is currently under a 45-day review and public comment period as majority stakeholder Innergex looks to obtain the necessary approvals from the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office.
Having worked her way through more than 7,000 pages of documentation, village manager of development services Caroline Lamont highlighted the relevant issues to the council on Tuesday. Among those were the integration of the Sea to Sky Trail with proposed access roads, contribution to indoor recreation in the village, jobs and connection of new trails on Ipsoot Mountain west of Pemberton.
While councillors agreed that pairing the hydro project with Sea to Sky Trail-clearing would be in everyone's interest, concerns were raised over the 72 kilometres of transmission lines that would stretch higher into the mountains.
“I still have an issue with hiding these power lines going over the top of mountains,” said Coun. Alan LeBlanc, noting both the cost of constructing in the alpine and the visual impact of the transmission lines. LeBlanc quickly suggested an alternative.
“That would be to run it down the side of the valley and all the money that isn't spent going over the mountains perhaps could go to recreation.”
Mayor Jordan Sturdy noted that, although running the power lines down the valley would save cost, numerous landowners would likely be looking for compensation. The footprint of the transmission lines is around 30 metres wide, with a few small sections doubling to 60 m.
Coun. Ted Craddock brought up the issue of taxation and what revenue could be harnessed from the project, to which Mayor Sturdy suggested the possibility of creating a spot extension for the municipal boundary.
“We had included the Ryan Creek Power Project in the initial boundary extension because
we wanted to potentially capture the taxation revenue out of that facility as opposed to have it going to Victoria,” said Sturdy.
He noted that a similar spot zone application was approved for the Harmac pulp mill on Vancouver Island, effectively creating a bubble zone to connect the industrial site with the municipal boundaries of Nanaimo.
“(It's) an issue that we should consider, maybe discuss with the ministry any options associated with that and get comment back from the proponent as to whether they would have any objection to that initiative,” said Sturdy.
A spot extension would ideally bring the generation facilities and the powerhouse within the village boundary, as these are considered the highest-value elements of the project.
Sturdy also floated the idea of Innergex sharing flow data from the rivers with the community as a way to monitor for flood threats in the Pemberton Valley.
“It would be wonderful if Innergex could make the volumetric data available to the community once the project is up and running for flood prediction,” said Sturdy. “Make it accessible to the River Forecast Centre so we can better predict when the Valley is going to fill with water.”
While an Innergex spokesperson noted that volumetric data is proprietary for the company, Sturdy countered that once the project is in place there is no need to keep that information private.
“To be able to pull it up (on the internet) at two o'clock in the morning and see that the river is up a foot in the last hour in the Upper Lillooet is pretty darn important to predicting what’s going to happen,” said the mayor. “That's huge in terms of the value of human safety.”
The public comment period remains open until July 30 and the proponent is holding open house consultations on July 9 at Mount Currie’s Ullus Community Complex and on July 10 at the Pemberton Community Centre, both from 4 to 8 p.m.