Keep run-of-river project out of Eldred Valley

imageA proposed hydro electric power project on the Eldred River won’t be supported by the Powell River Regional District, much to the relief and delight of local rock climbers and hikers who have established trails and climbing walls in the picturesque Eldred Valley.

Powell Hydro Inc, a subsidiary of Alterra Power Corporation, recently applied to the provincial government for an investigative water use licence for the development of a run-of-river power project on Eldred River. The site is a long established and popular climbing area and local residents were dismayed at the prospect of losing the valuable outdoor recreation area to industry.

At last Tuesday, May 17th’s Planning Committee meeting, local climber Christie Dionne, a member of Climbers Access Society of BC, was one of many speakers who gave an impassioned plea for preservation of the river valley. Right in the path of a proposed powerhouse is a climber’s campground, built in 2000 and protected since 2003. The campsite was built in memory of her husband, Colin Dionne, a well-known Powell River climber and adventurer who died in a helicopter accident in 2011. The site is maintained by members of the rock climbing community who help with trail maintenance to and from the site.

Another resident, Jason Addy spoke on behalf of backcountry hikers and climbers. He told the committee that Eldred Valley is a “nexus” for backcountry users. “It is considered a hidden gem,” he said. “It is a huge part of why many people come and tour the area.” Addy asked that the Board indicate to the Ministry that they are not in favour of the project.

Jane Cameron, Western Forest Products Community Advisory Group said CAG had met with Alterra. “We have become educated on run of river projects,” she said. She explained that independent power projects allow forest land to be removed from forest reserves. She is aware that the Regional District is asked only for their opinion, but asked that PRRD not approve of the license.

Walter Cowlard, Western Forest Products, provided a written submission to which he spoke to, outlining Western Forest Product’s concerns with the proposal and conditions that they would like to see if the project is allowed to move forward.

Kevan Robitaille also spoke of his concerns related to the Eldred Valley and it’s popularity as a climbing area for both local and out-of-town climbers. He was advised to present his comments in writing. Anna Cottier supported Kevan Robitaille’s comments and indicated she would submit her comments in writing.

Erin Innes, while not being a climber, indicated she believes the area is very important for the entire community as people come here for the wilderness values. “It has large community value including water quality and biodiversity,” she said. “The area has to be protected as the run-of-river project has no benefit to the community.”

Mark Forsyth spoke to alpine access issues and areas where access has been lost. “I would like the PR Regional District to consider ensuring road acces,” he said. He indicated he will be submitting his comments in writing.

Janet Southcott spoke on behalf of her husband, Rob Southcott. She asked what is the need for extra power? “Has Alterra proven that we need extra power,” she asked?

Karen Kamon spoke to eco-tourism that she and her family are committed to. She asked that the Regional District research both the Yosemite and Squamish areas in relation to resource income generated. She noted the Eldred River Valley could do the same.

Regional Director for Area C, Colin Palmer said he was not in favour of run-of-river projects as the number of power poles in the region from these projects has a “detrimental effect of forestry and local jobs.” “I would like the province to not look at these projects as independent projects, but as a whole,” he said, “and look at the potential negative effect they will have on the local community.” Info Cred: Powell River Regional District.

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