Friday, July 17, 2009

'This might be another Clayoquot'

Stop Glacier Howser
AXOR, under subsidiary Purcell Green Power, has proposed the controversial 100 MW Glacier/Howser private hydro project for the Duncan Valley and the heart of the Purcells. It is the largest run-of-river project proposed in the Kootenays. It includes 92km of new power lines across the Purcell Mountains stretching from the West to the East Kootenay. These power lines would cut through old growth forest, old growth management areas off limits to logging companies and important grizzly bear habitat. It also includes the damming and diverting of water from four creeks into a combined 16km of tunnels large enough to drive a dump truck through. The water diverted would never return to the original creeks, leaving up to 12km of both streams with dramatically reduced water flow. The Environmental Assessment Office has now initiated the final public comment period for the project, which ends July 27. This includes a final round of open houses/public meetings. Copy of the application is available here.

June 23
More than 1,000 turn out to oppose Kootenay project

Rafe Mair, The Tyee: The government representatives and proponent Axor Group -- a Montreal-based construction giant -- had refused myriad requests from citizens and local politicians to hold one of the meetings in nearby Nelson, the unofficial capital of the region, which would have afforded access to a much larger population base. The move clearly backfired... Local environmental groups banded together to provide bus transportation and other means for getting people to the Kaslo meeting. The result was staggering... As local NDP MLA Michelle Mungall gold the company to rousing applause. 'These people are not uneducated about your project. They understand it. They don't like it. They don't want it.'... The people of the Kootenays, famous for their love of nature and commitment to protecting it, are once again leading by example.

Gwen Barlee, National Policy Director with the Wilderness Committee: People started to trickle into the parking lot: young families with children, kayakers from Nelson, concerned Kaslo residents, local BC Wildlife Federation members, loggers, fishers, hunters, hippies and business people. People came with signs and petitions, and an urgent concern about the fate of Glacier Howser Creeks and the 600 other creeks and rivers in BC that have been staked by private power companies. The crowd swelled to the point that people who couldn't fit into the parking lot spilled onto the grass, up the hill and onto the street. And people still kept coming... Then, just before the rally started, a cheer erupted from the crowd as three buses from Nelson pulled up... For more than three hours, people voiced their opposition to the project, condemning the BC government's rubber-stamp process and demanding that the environmentally destructive project be stopped.

Arrow Lakes News: Marilyn James asked those in attendance to speak for those who can't speak for themselves. 'Those caribou don't have a voice. Those grizzly bears walking those alpine meadows do not have a voice. They can't come down here and tell you, 'enough is enough.' That is for us. That is our responsibility and we better start accepting that that's a responsibility.'

It soon became plain that the audience was not interested in having the terms of the meeting dictated to them, and that attempts to do so were pointless... The majority of the speakers were there to state plainly, and often very enthusiastically, their very vehement and total opposition of the plan...

More than half of the speeches, verbal protests and catcalls from the protesters were aimed squarely at the table where the federal and provincial environment representatives sat, as opposed to the representatives from proponent AXOR... Several speakers made the point that the meeting amounted to an environmental 'approval' process rather than an application process.

Eyewitness report: The rally was organized and passionate... There was a corps of drummers which helped set the tone and keep order, too, as we started filing into the school. The general tone of the rally had not prepared me for what it would be like when we got inside... The crowd did not comply with the sign requesting us to leave our signs at the door, nor was it willing to follow the agenda for the evening. There was no patience to sit through the planned powerpoint presentations... At one point, one of the speakers from the audience asked if there was anyone present who trusted the environmental process. I saw two people raise their hands. The speaker noted four.

One of the strongest themes of the evening was the question of whether how the local people felt was even a factor in the government's decision, and whether there was any point in going through this exercise since the government had not demonstrated that it would ever reject a proposal. The threat of civil disobedience was never explicitly voiced but was constantly in the air. 'Do not bring this fight to us,' several people said. 'We don't want to have to fight you.' But the unspoken resolve was clear -- we will fight you with everything we've got.

July 16
Nelson Star: 'You have to keep fighting,' Rafe Mair told the 450 people in Nelson for a public meeting... Mair, a former Socred Environment Minister who is now the spokesperson for Save our Rivers, [said] 'They're going to bankrupt BC Hydro by allowing these private companies to control the energy in this province. But you can stop it, and you must.'

Eyewitness report: It was a totally different experience from Kaslo. Instead of anger, the audience expressed grim resolve. Blockades and civil disobedience were referred to in a matter of fact way. Rafe Mair told us that the rest of BC was looking to us in the Kootenays and if we could defeat this project, it would give everyone else heart. Joe Foy from the WCWC told us that in over 20 years of fighting environmental battles, the IPPs were the worst -- in terms of ecology, economics and democracy. Michelle Mungall noted that people were coming up to her on Baker Street and telling her they were prepared to 'go all the way.' Someone said, 'This might be another Clayoquot.'

It's time to raise your voice. You have until July 27 to let the BC Environmental Assessment Office and Premier Campbell know how you feel about Glacier and Howser Creeks staying wild.

Premier Gordon Campbell, West Annex, Parliament Buildings, Victoria, BC V8V 1X4, email, phone 250-387-1715, fax 250-387-0087

Garry Alexander, Project Assessment Director, Environmental Assessment Office, PO Box 9426 Stn Prov Govt, Victoria, BC V8W 9V1, email, fax 250-356-6448

Five points of concern:
1. The water diverted from the creeks is never returned to the original water bodies, damaging instream health and downstream ecosystems.
2. The transmission corridor would cut through important old-growth management areas: areas of forest which are off-limits to the logging industry.
3. The project would negatively impact habitat for threatened and endangered species including grizzly bears, mountain goats and mountain caribou, and destroy the habitat of a genetically unique population of bull trout found only in the Glacier Howser watershed.
4. The project would include 16km of tunnels large enough to drive a dump truck through, and would create a massive amount of waste rock material.
5. The environment throughout the region is under increasing pressure from 70 proposed private power project applications and other major developments like the nearby Jumbo Glacier Resort.
Image sources here and here.