For the second meeting in a row, Pemberton council faced criticism for developing a Request For Expression of Interest (RFEI) for a community power project, and this time received a petition signed by more than 100 community members opposing the move.
And also for the second meeting in a row, Mayor Jordan Sturdy communicated that issuing an RFEI will allow council to see what the potential options for a project are, but doesn’t necessarily mean any project will be pursued.
Local resident Doug Helmer presented the petition to council at Tuesday’s (Dec. 4) meeting after expressing all of his concerns with a potential run-of-river facility on Pemberton Creek, where exploration of a community power project has been a long-term council objective going back several years.
Among some of Helmer’s concerns were the potential impacts to fish and the environment, depression of Benchlands-area property values, decreased flow over the creek’s waterfall and the possibility of noise pollution in the surrounding area. Helmer also pointed out that the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District Trails Master Plan recommends that the trail adjacent to Pemberton Creek be expanded, and that the entire watershed has recreational and economic value in its current state.
“The creek, the trail, the waterfall and the surrounding forest are clearly incompatible with a power project,” he said. “Instead of exploiting this wonderful resource, we ask that Pemberton Creek be left as is for the future enjoyment of all.”
After council also received 10 letters of opposition to the project and fielded questions about it from a packed gallery, Sturdy said the RFEI is designed to see what options council has on an approach to Pemberton Creek.
“We recognize that preservation … is one of the options to be considered,” said Sturdy. “But I believe there are many other values or inputs (to consider) in reaching a determination as to what the best course of action is.
“We need to understand the options to determine whether to choose any of those options for development or future consideration,” continued Sturdy, adding that public consultation would “absolutely” be part of any projects under consideration.
The RFEI is still being drafted and is expected to appear before council at its Dec. 18 meeting for approval.