Friday, October 27, 2006

What's in a name? Ashlu Creek (It's just a creek)

The Ashlu .. again.

Given our incessant blathering about it, sometimes it seems to me we should just rename the blog to something like But really, if you’ve experienced the valley, then chances are you have as strong a connection to the place as we all do. And really, this place needs our help. So here comes another long piece on the Ashlu.

But first, we're spreading the word that a motivated consortium of concerned citizens, led by Squamish resident Tom Rankin, has finally unified to oppose development IN THE ASHLUand to expose the GREATER LONG-TERM THREATS facing BC’s waterways & energy independence. Please navigate to the websites tagged in that last sentence, & read THIS PIECE, published in Common Ground, first. Then, if you want, you can continue reading my long-ass diatribe below.


We’ve done our best to report on the extreme pressures facing the Ashlu, but haven’t yet been clear as to how it all happened or how you can get involved in the effort to help save the watershed from the proverbial wrecking ball. The way the whole debacle unfolded was a complex & difficult-to-decipher tangle of propaganda & shady backroom politics, along with the bastardization of a trusted public institution, & the hasty unilateral stripping of regional governmental authority.

Though the residents in the Squamish-Lillooet district & their representative govt's have been consistent in their opposition to hydro development in the valley (twice denying Ledcor's license application), as you read this, a large work crew is felling trees & building a highway up the narrow canyon in advance of dewatering one of the most amazing rivers on the planet. Hydro development in the Ashlu Valley is the result of what CHOMSKY would refer to as MANUFACTURED CONSENT.

Consider that BC Hydro has budgeted $15M for their current spin campaign targeting every major pub in the province with its “Green Power” message. Consider also that Ledcor, the development giant who will reap many millions of dollars of return on their initial $10K license application fee from an already-inked 20-year contract with BC Hydro, has not only been a big-time contributor to the Campbell admin, but also is investing big money into their own campaign to CATAPULT THE PROPAGANDA.

Take for example their slick Ashlu Green Power WEBSITE, a classic study in GREENWASHING (i.e. lying). Launched ostensibly to “educate” BC residents & to separate myth from fact, the site attempts to convince us that the project is actually doing the kayaking community a favor by dewatering the river. And that’s not the most irritating or painfully transparent strategy they employ either.

BC Hydro granted Ledcor "green" status on numerous power projects, including the Ashlu IPP, without even requiring an environmental impact assessment. Under increased industry pressure to reduce "red tape", the Province created a neat loophole for hopeful developers. Now, a thorough EIA/EIS is required only for projects of 50 megawatts and greater. Care to hazard a guess as to the MW capacity for the Ashlu project (& many others)? Yeah that’s right, 49. Then, with a wink & nudge, the Admin threw in an additional policy provision allowing approved "small" developments to effectively DOUBLE the MW output on existing infrastructure .. all without EIA, of course. The Ledcor site sez:
“Every federal and provincial environmental review board has approved this project.”

(^^^ While that may be the case, without first conducting EIA, neither the fed nor provincincial govt's have any environmental FACTS to draw upon in their decisions .. & the local and regional communities are still adamantly opposed to the project.)


“The impacts of the Ashlu Creek project are negligible.”

(^^^ Again, without any study into the ecological impacts of the project, what's truly negligible is Ledcor's credibility in making this claim. It's well known that the Ashlu Valley, with its tightly bottlenecked lower reaches, is among the few remaining corridors for migrating grizzlies in lower coastal BC.)

What’s in a name? Well, their messaging also includes setting the record straight on the actual name of Ashlu CREEK – not to be confused, of course, with a more substantial, important, or worthy of consideration RIVER. For the record, historic data culled from percent-of-flow correlations using the Elaho (the traditional “barometer” for the Ashlu), shows that river spends +/- 80 days per year between 1,400 cfs and 2,000 .. with several flood events per year blowing those numbers away. The Ashlu is very much a "river" & it wouldn't be such a hot button topic for either side of the issue if it were just a creek.

"Last Tango", usually a +/- 8-ft ledge at the takeout of the Mine Run, during a high water event. Courtesy of Stuart Smith.

Why do they even bother with semantics? Well, the website was clearly not intended to allay the concerns of, or even speak to, kayakers or anyone in-the-know about environmental issues. It's a no-brainer for us, but we belong to a tiny minority population of invested, informed & vocal citizens. The site was intended to resonate with the 60% of the population who are “moderately green” or “couldn’t care less”; those whose semi-functioning antennae may pick up a staticky signal that there’s a ruckus going on in their backyards, and who may be aroused just enough to log-in & get the scoop. This site exists to give that easily-convinced & mostly asleep-at-the-wheel population “the facts” in an easy-to-swallow green pill.

Perhaps they Google “ashlu creek”, where 2 of the top 3 results are Ledcor sponsored sites. Or, maybe they enter the URL that’s included in Ledcor’s “green power” print ads. And, upon entry they get cliché, serene imagery of spruce branches & the literal “shades of green” look & feel of the site. They see the prominent placement of a video clip of Squamish Nation spokesman endorsing the project. They learn that the Ashlu is just a random “creek” that a couple fringe eco-nut kayakers like to “ride the rapids” through. And that the Ledcor - BC Hydro partnership exists to offer a benevolent alternative to dirty energy sources .. like coal-fired power plants.

The most interesting strategy Ledcor used was linking to a RangeLife piece from last year in which I made mention of a short season for the lower Ashlu runs. Their angle was that my piece irrefutably supports artificially lowering flows during peak season melt. You have to hand it to them though, that’s pretty savvy work – using the opposition’s own words to craft out-of-context support for their case.

But to the educated & enlightened, the site just oozes slimy propaganda.

Behind the tribal spokesman & the “green” curtain lurks Whitey -- a billion-dollar multi-national energy development corporation exploiting:

(1) Tribal leaders’ willingness to sell out their tribal values under the guise of “economic prosperity” (read: the creation of a tiny number of short-term manual labor jobs)

(2) The availability of large sums of money to manufacture consent through campaign contributions and governmental support.

(3) Our own Caucasian guilt complex for past atrocities committed upon Native people, along with the fact that we’ve been conditioned to revere Native authority on stewardship issues .. to the degree that now, with the lining of a couple key tribal pockets, we get Indian-approved environmental devastation.

(4) The public’s unwaivering trust of their public utility to do the right thing.

Ledcor’s communications people know that few will look behind the curtain. They know that we’re hamstrung to call out the touchy subject around the native endorsement, given our own policy of landgrabbing & exploitation of first nation people. They know that when the local governments deny them a license, they can count on cashing in their quid pro quo stock options in the provincial admin, and just get legislation enacted to override this, and all future, local opposition to their development plans. And they know that what's at stake is not only a multi-billion dollar revenue stream, but essentially the transfer of the public control of energy resources from the Canadian people to private corporate interests.

Please make sure to visit the & sites to learn how you can get involved.

Enjoy the pics of the Ashlu.

Joey Vosburg running Last Tango .. me & Ethan chillin' in the sun.

I think this is Boomer(?) on 50/50.

Kato & Andrew runnin' Blue Angels stylie on the first big rapid in the Box .. well, second rapid if you run 50/50.

E-Ross in grayscale.

Me in "Kernage"

Rathman shooting

Love this shot ..


Also, real quick .. we have around 10 strong entrants in the Photo Hold'em contest. If you're interested in getting into the poker game, email us a headshot quicklike.


Phil's playspot said...

Hi, on the pic called "rathman shooting" we see somebody shooting with sony FX1 or Z1U camcorder. I own a Z1U and I would like to go on creeks with it. What do you use to protect the cam in your creek boat ?

Thanks a lot

Anonymous said...

TG - Very, very nicely written piece! Thanks you for sharing the information. YOU certainly are making a difference!

Todd Gillman said...

A. Austin & many other people use a Watershed drybag with a custom-made micicell foam insert/wrap on the creek. By the way, that camera is for sale. Under a year old. If anyone's interested in buying it, I can put you in touch with Austin.

B. Thanks for the comment. Sadly, I'm not sure how much of a difference we'll be able to make on the Ashlu itself. it's most likely too late in the game .. but by raising awareness of the overarching issues around Bill 30, maybe we can help prevent the same thing from happening to other world class rivers (the Callaghan has a big bullseye on it right now) & help keep BC's energy resources, & the decision to exploit them, in the hands of the public. Run-of-river IPP's are not all bad. They are certainly better than coal, & no one's disputing that. But when the regional govt on behalf of the public it serves repeatedly denies license to develop, that should be the end of the story.


Anonymous said...

E Smith, fucking awesome, nick named sleepy e. Does he still sleep all the way to the river? Took him down alot of his 1st Class V. I think he was more scarred of all the grass and whiskey we consumed at the putin than the river itself. good on ya.

Anonymous said...

My first stay in the valley was last March 06, a stopover before skook. Totally awesome old growth on banks above commitment canyon.

This is a big bummer. I wanna be like an eco warrior and spoil ledcors attempt to tame this incredibly amazing valley.

Edward Abbey got it right in the monkey wrench gang. It's unfortunate that the administrative powers can just flip it.

Having attended this last years Ashlu fest, I was amazed that so little attention was raised and that no action was being addressed(petitions of redress). It seemed like we we're all just accepting what is so unacceptable. A quiet reluctance to take a stand.

Being a US citizen, I've been critized for my own outspoken veiws on this crime. Apparently, some think this is strictly Canadian politics and foreigners be damned.

May the judgement of the heavens fall on those in the wrong.