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City opposes power project

Council to send BC government letter against Goat Island plant
Chris Bolster

City of Powell River will be sending the provincial government a formal letter stating its opposition to an independent power-project application for Goat Island.

Councillor Russell Brewer, who is also a municipal director to Powell River Regional District board where the application referral was made, brought the matter to the council’s attention Thursday, December 17. Council passed a unanimous motion to send a letter of opposition to the investigative phase.

“It’s at this stage that you want to get some decent comments in to the province,” said Brewer. “I worry that once you give the okay for the investigative permit, it’s probably easier to get approval for the subsequent phases if it’s deemed to be a feasible project for the proponent. Not that I’m against hydro projects; it’s better than burning coal, but the need needs to demonstrated.”

A Vancouver-based company is investigating the creation of a 2,000-megawatt pumped-storage hydroelectric project located on Goat Island in Powell Lake.

Pumped-storage hydroelectric systems, common in Asia and Europe, generate electricity by pumping water between reservoirs at different elevations. The systems can generate significantly more power than run-of-the-river projects.

According to the investigative-phase application, the facility’s power lines will be located along the eastern shore of Haslam Lake and cut across the city’s Powell River Community Forest tenure.

Council will send provincial forest minister Steve Thomson a letter outlining the city’s concerns with the project. It will also be copied to Powell River-Sunshine Coast MLA Nicholas Simons.

The city recognized the Goat Lake power project could have adverse consequences on its community watershed at Haslam Lake and its community forest.

“Being a forester and scientist, it’s the loss of productive forest base from the community forest that could be a greater concern, depending on where the line goes,” said Brewer.

The company’s investigative phase application does not give enough detail to estimate its impact on the community forest, but according to Brewer it will be “productive, tree-growing land that’s lost forever.”

Mayor Dave Formosa confirmed at the meeting Powell River Community Forest will be sending a letter of concern as well.

If the project moves beyond the initial phase, council motioned to have further opportunity to make recommendations and suggest the proponent undertake a community-consultation process.

At the meeting, Brewer and councillor Maggie Hathaway questioned the need for the project when BC Hydro is already working on its Site C development in the Peace River region.

Hathaway added she was surprised City of Powell River was not notified and invited to participate in the public feedback for the investigative-phase application.

“It sounds to me that there’s a flaw in the legislation that allows a project of this magnitude to go through without consulting the very people it’s going to affect,” said Hathaway at the meeting. “Hopefully we can get some changes at a higher level.”