The village will be moving ahead with a longstanding plan to establish a community power project on Pemberton Creek by soliciting outside help on its own.
Council voted at Tuesday’s (Nov. 6) meeting to have staff bring a Request For Expression of Interest (RFEI) back to the table for approval next month.
The village owns the water licence for Pemberton Creek and has discussed the idea of establishing a small, run-of-river generator for several years. Pemberton had been pursuing the project through Public-Private Partnerships Canada (P3), but was recently advised by officials with the federal fund that the village’s submission was not accepted for the next round of evaluation.
Mayor Jordan Sturdy cautioned that it’s still “early days” in the project but noted that such a facility isn’t something the village can do in-house.
“We’d have to see what the structure of a deal is at the end of the day,” Sturdy said during Tuesday’s meeting. “But clearly, we don’t have the skills or the capacity to design, build and operate our own run-of-river project, so we need to be involved with somebody who can bring that to the table.”
Responses to the RFEI could also give council a clearer picture of what the potential end result would be for the project. Sturdy said it has been difficult for legislators to envision exactly what a finished project would look like, as well as what the village’s ultimate involvement would be.
“That’s something I think this council and previous councils have struggled with,” he said.
However, the potential benefits to the village are many, said Sturdy. The project could be valued at $40 million or more, he said, bringing in large amounts of taxation revenue. He added that the potential for using the facility for power in emergency situations exists, as does the chance to even improve upon the current habitat for fish in the creek.
Sturdy said the steep vertical drop of the creek means there aren’t likely to be many fish affected by establishing a power generator there. That said, the village is already undertaking fish studies on the creek, while also working with B.C. Hydro to see if the nearby substation has the capacity to accommodate a connection from the proposed facility.
Pemberton Valley residents have been extremely vocal about proposed power projects in the area over the past few years, citing environmental and visual impact concerns. Sturdy said that he doesn’t anticipate the village would encounter the same kind of resistance if the project is adequately handled.
“This project has been on our strategic plan for probably five years now anyway, and we’ve slowly been moving through the various processes and have not received really any negative correspondence,” he said. “In the case of a couple of individuals who have been very vocal about other projects in the valley, they have said that this is the type of project that is worth considering because it is a community-oriented project.”
RV campground granted approval
The Meadows at Pemberton golf course has obtained the Agricultural Land Commission’s approval to establish an RV campground on its Airport Road property, Sturdy announced in his mayor’s report Tuesday.
Meadows owner Gord Bell submitted an application earlier this year to set up the campground after obtaining the village’s support of his proposal. He now has permission to build nearly 70 serviced and unserviced sites on the lot.
“That’s great news for the golf course and great news for the community,” said Sturdy. “Recreational vehicle camping in this valley isn’t really there except for at Nairn Falls, so this is good for everybody.”