Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Latest on BC Rivers

For those of you following from far away and others who are home to BC's lower mainland...thanks for tuning in! For the past couple years TRL has expressed concerns through various posts and media about the rapid development of BC's rivers and creeks by private companies. The main focus through 2007 was watching and reporting on the swift transformation of the Ashlu watershed from a wild and scenic river to a gravel pit despite the overwhelming public opinion that there needed to be a plan and more transparency in the approval process. 49 MEGAWATTS was an attempt to document the decision making process on the Ashlu, share the concerns of others in the community, and expose the greater implications of BILL 30. We thank all of you who have supported our efforts and purchased a copy of the DVD, watched it online, and spread the message! It has been encouraging to see the film spur the interest of many groups outside the kayaking community, enrage people in BC about the theft of our precious rivers, and get people thinking about the issue beyond the propaganda of green power. This weekend brought even more encouragement with 49 Megawatts winning "Best Environmental Film" at the VANCOUVER INTERNATIONAL MOUNTAIN FILM FESTIVAL. Here is what the Jury had to say...

"Our choice for the Best Environmental film represents a badly needed wake-up call to communities throughout British Columbia. Presented as a commentary on environmentalism, we felt the filmmaker was driven as much by a passion for his subject as he was for documenting it. The film opened up a Pandora's Box as it explored the issue of private appropriation of public resources – namely of our rivers and waterways."

Now while we could easily take that as a pat on the back, it is more importantly an indication of a growing coalition of people that disagree with the BC government's approach to approving and assessing hundreds of new projects on rivers across the province. So as we close the chapter on the Ashlu, new chapters are opening and there is plenty to keep paying attention to as this issue steamrolls forward. Here is the latest news coming out of BC and some avenues for continued action and support.


It is my opinion that this particular proposal could very well become the boiling point that forces the BC government into a moratorium on all private "run of river projects". It should. It has massive implications for all of us. If people were not already convinced that the one off project approvals were working in favor of the developers and spurring hap hazard planning, this one proves just how far they are willing to go. Please take a several moments to get familiar with a few details and write a letter.

PINECONE BURKE PROVINCIAL PARK is a class A provincial park located just east of Vancouver. Class A meaning that it has the highest level of protection. Commercial use like logging, mining, ect... are defined as forbidden. So you can't run a power line through the park right? Right...unless you "change the boundaries" of the park. Well guess what.

CASCADE POWER (a subsidiary of Run of River, Inc.) is proposing a 161 Megawatt facility that dams 8 different tributaries to the Pitt River. There are numerous reasons why the project is not desirable. The Pitt River has some of the biggest wild runs of Salmon in the lower mainland, wolves and grizzly populate the valley, and it is prime recreational and wild land close to downtown Vancouver. But the biggest issue by far is that in order for the project to be viable they need to put in a 47 km long power line which would connect the Pitt River to the Cheekye Substation in Squamish. The route would cut right through the middle of Pinecone Burke Provincial Park and Cascade Power is seeking to change park boundaries to allow this to happen.

This map shows the proposed line through the park, connecting 8 power projects in the Upper Pitt and while they won't admit also will make the licences (which are also owned by Run or River Hydro, Inc.) on Skookum, Rafuse, and Crawford Creeks (known as the Mamquam Cluster)viable. The green area on the map is provincial park land. It does not take a rocket scientist to see that a power line bisecting a class A provincial park might have some impact on migration of species, let alone be in the best interest of the developers based on the ownership of the mamquam cluster. One power line...11 rivers. Makes sense for them but not for THE PEOPLE of BC!

Three "public hearings" have been held over the past couple in Squamish, Pitt Meadows, and Mission regarding the draft terms of reference for the environmental assessment of this project. The public was invited by BC parks, the BC Environmental Assessment Office, and Run of River Hydro, Inc to come out and voice their opinion. I was appalled at the meeting in Squamish. Representatives of the BC government (although present) were not hosting the event, but rather Run of River Hydro executives were fielding questions, playing MC for the night, and every piece of information in the room was propaganda from Run of River. You would expect to see information from BC parks and the Environmental Assessment Office, but instead the representatives from the offices just carried on with an apologetic approach at the meeting. A vivid reminder of how much pressure is coming down from the higher up...GORDON CAMPBELL .

In Pitt Meadows the meeting was shut down, because over 500 people came in opposition to this project.

And last night in Mission there was another meeting that was attended by hundreds of concerned citizens. The BC FEDERATION FOR WILDLIFE spoke in opposition representing over 30,000 members!

This is positive momentum folks...let's keep the pressure on.

So, in order to keep you kayakers from getting bored with too many BC political details, here are some implications of this project and things you can do.

1. From a paddlers perspective if this proposed power line is allowed to cross the park it will pretty much guarantee viability of the Skookum Creek project. Questions I asked at the Squamish hearing about Skookum were quickly answered with "those projects have nothing to do with this proposal" and "the power line route has nothing to do with the fact that we own three licenses in the Mamquam drainage". It would obviously be in their interest to have one power line connecting all their projects.

Let me remind you of how amazing Skookum Creek is...

Perhaps the best waterfall in the Squamish area

The famous 60 foot slide

Umm...people we need this creek needs to remain off limits to private corporations.

2. Please take a couple minutes to read a few more DETAILS here and if you have 20 minutes watch this new documentary called POWERPLAY. It will flush out a few more details and carry what you may already know a bit further.

3. WRITE A LETTER PLEASE! If you care about the rivers of BC, the future of viable kayaking, the wild places that makes BC famous, you MUST write a letter on this issue.

Here is an example that you could cut and paste into an email and send off to the agencies that must continue to get public pressure on this issue. Weather you live here, visit here, or plan to visit...your opinion on this issue must be expressed to force the BC government into dealing with this issue.

I write to express my concerns regarding the proposed private power project in the Upper Pitt River watershed. It is unacceptable to allow a company to build transmissions lines through a class A provincial park and I 100% oppose Northwest Cascade Power, Inc's (a subsidiary of Run of River Power, Inc) application to change park boundaries to accommodate their project.

Additionally, it is unfair that the park boundary change was attached onto this environmental assessment process late in the application and it is only fair to extend the comment period beyond April 8, 2008 to allow fair public input.

The Upper Pitt River watershed is home to the largest salmon runs in the lower mainland of BC, exceptional recreation, grizzly bear, wolf, and many other species. No mitigation or study can effectively recover the loss that will occur if a powerline is run through Pinecone Burke Provincial Park. This is an example of a private power project that should not be allowed to move forward in the assessment process.

If you are not from BC and you like to visit here, you may want to add that these places are the reason that you travel to BC as a tourist and you would disagree with BC Parks being managed in this manner. By all means write your own personal letter...this will hopefully inspire you to do it!

These are the people that need to hear from you....

Barry Penner
BC Minister of the Environment
Room 112
Parliament Buildings
Victoria, BC
V8V 1X4

The BC Environmental Assessment Office
Martha Anslow
PO Box 9426
Stn Prov Gov
Victoria, BC V8W 9V1

****this one is really important and your letters will be required to be posted on the EAO websites*****


Todd and I were invited to this years NATIONAL PADDLING FILM FESTIVAL in Frankfurt, Kentucky. And while it took us longer to get to Kentucky due to ice storms than it took us to get to Peru, the festival was a blast. We had the opportunity to share our story of the VTH HUALLAGA and hang out with some really nice folks. Thanks you all! To be sent home with a $1000 for the BC Rivers was incredible.

The check for a grand!


Max Bechdel of MaCall, Idaho was our most recent winner of a Kayak Session subscription. So we have decided since we have given away two subscriptions to people here on the west coast, the next two will go to folks back east.

Max sent us this photo of him running 50/50 on the Ashlu.

And had these words to share...

I'm 22 and living in Bozeman MT finishing up school at MSU with my degree in Computer Science. I grew up in McCall Idaho where I learned to kayak. Two years ago I took a year off from school and did a bit of boating, some of which was in Canada. During that trip I got on the Ashlu and saw firsthand what an amazing river it is, not to mention everything else that surrounds it. It's sad to see what is happening to the Ashlu and so many others. I read TRL at work, busy busy work right, and saw how you got involved with this issue and I think its great and was totally stoked to support your efforts. Also, this photo is me running first drop of the box section."

Thanks for the support Max and everyone else out there! We are warming up and there WILL be some kayaking happening this weekend in our parts. Spring is here!

Oh yea and if you have not checked out Shane's DATOS INSUFICIENTES interview with Fitz Cahall over at years DIRTBAG DIARIES ...go have a listen.


Anonymous said...

This is a great post. Thanks for keeping the rest of us working drones in the loop on what is happening in British Columbia. I remember seeing Skookum creek for the first time years ago on a LVM episode. It looks so big and beautiful. I hope that people actually read your post the whole way through and send those letters! Good stuff boys!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for your strong work TRL guys!! Keep fighting the good fight. And of course keep bringing the quality content.

Anonymous said...

Hey Brian and TRL boys,

Keep fighting the fight. You guys are doing a great job in helping to spread the word. Suggestion...I would donate some cash to help you fight this and I think others would as well. Perhaps you could post something on the best place to some cash to work, whether its donating to an organization or just donating directly to you.

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