Friday, December 19, 2008

Ruin Of the River

Glacier Creek. Photo Doug Pyper

Planned for Glacier and Howser Creeks.

The ill-conceived BC Energy Plan presently being implemented by the Campbell government outlaws BC Hydro from developing any more power in the future. Instead BC Hydro must now purchase electricity from private power producers who are essentially being given rights by the government to all our watersheds here in BC.

The idea is being sold to the public as “run of the river” or “green” energy. Although some projects do fall within those parameters, in truth most of these projects are large industrial corporate endeavors that create environmental devastation involving dams, diversion tunnels, clear-cutting and road building through old growth forest for new transmission lines. Large corporations are looking at projected profits of one hundred million dollars plus per year. The people of British Columbia stand to gain nothing from this giveaway of our public resources. What we get out of it is a trashed environment and increased hydro rates.

Currently there are over 600 licenses on rivers and streams in BC, with an identified potential for 8000 licenses over the next decade. So long Supernatural British Columbia!

Ashlu River Hydro Project. Photo courtesy of Western Canada Wilderness Committee.

The project proposed for Glacier and Howser Creeks just north of Kootenay Lake by Axor Corporation of Montreal is the largest and most destructive to date here in Kootenays. They plan to divert the water from both creeks into two tunnels 4.5 meters in diameter totalling 16 kms. in length. (producing 350,000 cubic meters of rock-muck sledge). “Run of the River” implies the water is returned to the creek beds to proliferate the ecosystem it supports. (i.e. spawning Bull Trout etc). Not so! These diversion points are 10.5 and 12 kilometers upstream from the mouths of these pristine creeks. The water is never returned to the creek beds. It travels through the tunnels to a powerhouse on Duncan Lake reservoir where it is then dumped into the lake.

With possible diversion of up to 80% of mean stream flow to feed the turbines, there will be virtually little or no creek left existing downstream from the diversion points especially low flow seasons.

Another consideration is that Glacier Creek forestry road is access to the beautiful backcountry of Monica Meadows, Jumbo Pass, and MacBeth Icefields which many of us enjoy. The possibility exists that this road will be gated by Axor during construction and most definitely access to these areas will be impacted by project infrastructure.

Axor Corp. is saying this will create jobs. Yes, perhaps a few in the construction phase for loggers to clear the site and cut transmission corridors for power lines. Most of the labour will be contract or union from outside the region. When completed, this fully automated structure will permanently employ only a few people, as does the similar completed Ashlu River project on the coast. It’s all a very high price for pay for a few short term jobs.

Doug Pyper

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