I would like to comment on Bruce Kay’s letter (Government, not technology, issue with hydro project), which he wrote in response to my letter (Opposed to Lillooet Hydro project). His assertion that Innergex’s Upper Lillooet river diversion project would have “little significant impact both visually or ecologically” seems to reflect a common misconception that river diversion projects have a low environmental impact.
There is a growing body of science that shows the environmental damage that river diversion projects cause to fish and other wildlife as well as to their habitat. I urge readers to read Watershed Watch Salmon Society’s excellent report on river diversion projects in British Columbia (http://www.watershed-watch.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/TamedRivers-Web.pdf). This report highlights the problems generated by river diversion projects in Norway. River diversion projects supply 99 per cent of the country’s electricity and is “the most widespread cause of problems for salmon in Norway, affecting more wild Atlantic salmon stocks than any other human-related cause, including ocean harvesting, sea lice and other parasites, acid rain, and other forms of habitat destruction.” Norway is even considering removing some river diversion projects to prevent further extinction of salmon populations. These lessons learned from Norway should serve as a wake-up call to B.C.
Documentation produced by the environmental assessment process of Innergex’s Upper Lillooet river diversion project shows that both the provincial government and Innergex recognize that the project will have an enormous impact on fish (bull trout, cutthroat trout and coho), grizzly bears, mountain goats, pacific tailed frogs and wolverines as well as on their habitat. The ministry of forests, lands and resource pperations expressly stated that the project’s impacts on grizzly bears cannot be “meaningfully mitigated.”
Innergex naturally argues that most of its project’s impacts can be mitigated and/or compensated, including through such “measures” as imposing a maximum speed limit of 50 km to “prevent” traffic accidents with grizzly bears, and the use of blasting mats to “reduce noise” when blasting, which particularly affects wolverines. Innergex also proposes to “mitigate” the direct effects its project would have on a mountain goat winter forage area in a legally designated Ungulate Winter Range (UWR) by seeking to remove the affected area from the UWR and to swap it with appropriate replacement habitat. I hope the mountain goats get the memo on time.
Another so-called mitigation measure is to have an independent environmental monitor on site during the construction phase. Given that such a monitor would be paid by Innergex, her/his independence is highly questionable. I do not understand how the monitoring of known destruction to wildlife and their habitat is supposed to serve as a mitigation measure, especially given that Innergex has a history of non-compliance with flow management regulations?
I hope that the Honorable Minister of Environment, Terry Lake, and the Honorable Minister of Energy, Natural Gas, Rich Coleman, take the very substantial concerns expressed by the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Resource Operations as well as the Department of Fisheries and BC Parks into account and hence do not issue an environmental certificate for Innergex’s Upper Lillooet river diversion project.