In 2010, BC Hydro reported that private power companies generated just 16 per cent of the power in B.C. but they represented 49 per cent of the costs. As such, the provincial government announced it would axe B.C. Hydro’s electricity self-sufficiency and insurance power requirements. Is this to say that the gold rush on B.C.’s creeks and rivers should come to an end? Not so. Premier Clark did an about face and has again opened the door to Independent Power Producers in the Arrow region with a vengeance.
Recent IPP applications for Investigative Purposes to generate Hydro electricity have been filed for Stoney Creek just north of Fauquier, Burton’s Caribou, Goat, Snow, Burton and Woden creeks as well as St. Leon, the Illecillewaet and Incomappleux waterways near Revelstoke. This has many locals rolling up their sleeves for a stand-off.
According to Frontcounter BC, an Investigative Licence is good for five years allowing the proponent to enter crown land to do feasibility studies. They are not allowed to do any changes to the land beyond cutting a trail for ATV access. Any further changes like road building need to be advertised for public input. Sadly, these advertisements are not always easy to find. If their studies have not been completed within the time allotted, the licence can be renewed for another number of years. Once all t’s and i’s are crossed and dotted, the proponents are not necessarily required to share their development plan with a nearby community, nor is there any mechanism employed to control what they do at any given time.
There are those among us that believe developing run-of-the-river (ROR) Hydro power is a good thing touting ‘we need to generate more electricity for future requirements as our population grows and flooding the Peace Site C Dam is not an option.’ Though this may be arguable, an abundance of other options are available.
Yes, wind turbines and solar come to mind albeit with limited dependency but then again so is Stoney Creek because it lays dry for nine months, and other tributaries are also subject to seasonal variations that do not necessarily coincide with our seasonal heating and cooling requirements. Geothermal, tidal wave and dam spillage are dependable options yet to be expanded upon as well as conservation measures.
But here’s the real twist: our own Arrow ROR system has yet to be fully developed, with the Waneta Expansion Project perhaps being the last BC Hydro project on the Arrow Lakes if our provincial government has its way. This is additional to the existing Whatshan, Pingston and the recently approved Fosthall developments.
Add to this an article in the Vancouver Sun stating that BC Hydro was forced this spring to spill hundreds of millions cubic feet of water over the publicly owned Peace Canyon dam at $10 per Megawatt in order to fulfill IPP contracts at $68 per Megawatt. This, folks, is the Green Energy Plan, a plan that cost us $180 million in just three months with another daunting $40 billion in long term contracts, according to New Democrat energy critic John Horgan.
‘But IPPs create jobs’. Well so does any other power generating option; it’s a conundrum without cessation. Furthermore, IPP profits don’t stay in B.C. and are therefore subject to being bought and sold globally at the whim of shareholders whereas our public utility provide for compensation efforts to rebuild ecosystems destroyed by their developments. Not so with IPPs. No compensation. No rebuild. No reporting. No responsibility for their uncontrolled actions or inactions.
So how do RORs affect fish in general while putting the blue-listed Bull Trout at risk of becoming extinct? Typically, a project begins with a new road built parallel, more or less, to a subjected waterway. Open corridors and bridges have an impact on aquatic and terrestrial wildlife and habitat, water and soils, the latter of which is well displayed by the alluvial fan at the mouths of Burton and Caribou creeks, the historical Eagle Creek in Edgewood, and the southern portion of the Burton Flats in particular. Siltation is one of the leading causes of fish habitat losses throughout the Arrows including the challenged ancient Sturgeon. Next comes the construction of a temporary creek bypass (more siltation) in order to create a headpond held by a barrier or weir (I’ll call it a dam), and that, we should all know, impedes the flow of nutrients.
As such, the already nutrient-deficient Arrow Reservoir would be further impounded proportional to the number of developments allowed, resulting in a cumulative effect. A profound two words not recognized by our select Ministers and their governing agencies.
Continuing downstream from the dam, kilometres of pipe, buried or not, delivers water to the lower-elevation turbine housed in a powerhouse. This practice leaves the original creek bed with leftover water the pipe it is not capable of accommodating. With seasonal and climactic changes in creek flow, the industry employs ‘ramping,’ a process which increases and decreases the flow downstream from the project.
Even with the installation of fish ladders, ramping the creek flow is known to strand and kill fish, dewater eggs and cause spawning interference. After the turbines, the piped water is released in a spillway back to the original creek usually at a location just above a natural barrier. This causes supersaturation of gases especially with nitrogen, the effects of which are seen in fish through gas bubble trauma – similar to the bends associated with human divers. Such are the atrocities witnessed at the famed Ashlu River development as evidenced by thousands of documents obtained through Freedom of Information by the Wilderness Committee. A break down of the food chain has far reaching effects.
General consensus suggests that IPPs should not be allowed to meddle with fish habitat. If you disagree, so be it. Consensus also suggests hands off Burton’s community watershed and the Incomappleux’s very rare valley-bottom Temperate Rainforest, which is a gem of untold hidden ecological treasures.
If these issues matter to you, please continue to speak out for what you believe in and stand up for the protection of what is most valuable. Take a stand against these proposed developments by joining the Arrow Lakes Environment Stewardship Society in their commitment to preserve the environment of the Arrow Lakes ecosystem for future generations. Learn how. Call (250) 265-3430.