Canada minister opposes grid route for 180-MW Upper Pitt River

British Columbia’s environment minister rejected a proposal March 26 that would have adjusted park boundaries to accommodate transmission lines for the proposed 180-MW Upper Pitt River hydroelectric project northeast of Vancouver.

Environment Minister Barry Penner said he decided not to recommend that the cabinet and B.C. Legislature approve the Northwest Cascade Power Ltd. proposal to adjust boundaries of Pinecone Burke Provincial Park. The boundary change requires legislative approval.

Penner cited public opposition to the plan and concerns raised by his staff that the proposal did not meet environmental criteria. One media report said a March 25 meeting in Pitt Meadows drew 1,000 people furious about the hydro project. (HNN 2/28/07) The project would feature seven interconnected run-of-river hydroelectric facilities in tributaries to the Upper Pitt River, plus a 42-kilometer transmission line.

Penner said the proposal did not meet strict environmental criteria set forth in the Provincial Park Boundary Adjustment Policy, nor did it have sufficient support from the public, some First Nations, and local government.

Earlier in the week, British Columbia’s Outdoor Recreation Council declared the Upper Pitt River the most endangered river on its list of the province’s Most Endangered Rivers of 2008. The council said the clustering of power projects along the Upper Pitt raised serious concerns about adverse effects to the river and its fish stocks.

Developer to pursue project despite ruling

Northwest Cascade Power, a subsidiary of Run of River Power Inc., said project planning would continue despite the environment minister’s decision. Run of River President Jako Krushnisky said the minister’s announcement came as a surprise to the company and to the Katzie First Nation, which he said is a co-manager of the park, and on whose traditional territory the proposed project is located.

A ministry spokesman said the minister’s decision does not mean the project will not advance, only that it will not advance as proposed.

Penner announced his decision before a B.C. Environmental Assessment Office deadline of April 8 for comments on draft terms of reference. Final terms will stipulate what the developer must include in an application for an environmental assessment certificate.

�The pre-emptive action by the minister before the process was allowed to complete this phase of progress has raised a number of questions about the government’s next steps,� Krushnisky said. �For our part, as we have done at every milestone in this long process, we are evaluating where we’re at, project planning is continuing, and we are considering our next steps going forward.�

Northwest Cascade Power originally announced plans to develop eight hydroelectric plants at seven sites totaling 120.7 MW. It later boosted the total proposed capacity to 161 MW, and then to 180 MW. It said the projects would require a capital investment of C$350 million to C$400 million (US$344 million to US$394 million). The plants would be constructed sequentially from 2009 to 2016.

The proposed projects and their capacities, as identified in the draft terms of reference, are: 38-MW Bucklin; 16-MW Steve; 29-MW Pinecone; 15-MW Homer; 30-MW Boise; 16-MW Shale; 20-MW Corbold; and 16-MW East Corbold. Corbold and East Corbold would share a powerhouse.

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