Pemberton residents filled the Legion Monday night (March 18) to learn about river diversion power projects from experts that have been studying their impacts since they were introduced by the BC Liberal government as a way to address perceived, and as it turned out fallacious, electricity demand deficits. In the decade since the privatization of power generation in B.C., many projects are up and running providing a wealth of data showing the negative consequences to environment and economy.
In attendance were members of the council and Village of Pemberton staff, the Lil’wat Nation, power generation industry and around 200 members of the public. The meeting was billed as an opportunity for the public to learn about these projects from the non-proponent perspective and organized by a group of citizens concerned that the public has not been consulted nor informed about the industrialization of publically owned Crown land.
The Sea to Sky region has been called Ground Zero due to the many rivers that could be and are harnessed for power generation. Innergex’s Upper Lillooet project is slated to start construction this year and the Village of Pemberton has recently issued a Request for Expressions of Interest on Pemberton Creek, which runs right through the village. These projects join 45 in operation in B.C., 33 in development, and over 800 in various stages of application.
In addition to well-documented environmental degradations, a grave concern is the financial ill-health of BC Hydro said Gwen Barlee, policy director of the Wilderness Committee. Barlee explained that before being forced by government policy to purchase private power, BC Hydro was able to provide cheap, low-carbon electricity for British Columbians and at the same time contribute millions to public coffers. Now with electricity rates climbing, the public utility has made 20-60 year purchase agreements with private operators and may no longer buy power on the open market.
Dr Craig Orr of the Watershed Watch Salmon Society has been a professional ecologist for over 30 years and is currently studying the sustainability of river diversion power projects. His presentation outlined the serious consequences to salmon and other fish stocks of regular industry practices like ramping (rapidly raising and lowering the water levels in the river stranding fish stocks) and complete de-watering (preventing any water at all from entering the river).
Orr explained how a lack of planning and consideration of the cumulative effects of many projects in one area, such as we face in the Sea to Sky is of great concern to scientists.
Organizers of Monday’s meeting are pleased with the results of the first public meeting of their grassroots campaign. They hope that members of the public, now armed with the knowledge that IPPs are neither “green,” nor in the economic public interest, will write letters and attend council meetings to let decision-makers know that people care about their backyard rivers.
To join the mailing list and receive information on future meetings please send an email to email@example.com. To become involved, attend council meetings to learn about the process the Village of Pemberton has engaged in, and write letters expressing your concerns about the projects.