Run of the River Power Inc. confirmed it has investigation licenses for hydro projects in areas close to Colwell Creek, Klinaklini River, Bussel Creek and Baptiste Dester Creek in the Chilcotin, but said it is the province’s present review of existing investigative license holders that has forced the company to take a serious look at whether it plans to move ahead with any of the projects.
From his office in Delta, Russ Hopp, president and chief executive officer of Run of River Power Inc., told the Tribune at this point the company is not sure that it will move ahead with run-of-river projects in the area.
“The company is also looking carefully at what is happening in the region and any possible developments. It all depends on the economics because to rebuild the existing power line would be really expensive. To justify the cost of that line you need all the stars to align. To be honest, it’s a tough project,” Hopp said.
In 2009 the company looked at obtaining a biomass contract near Hanceville, 80 km west of Williams Lake.
At the time the company thought if it could get a biomass plant built, there was an opportunity to go further west and look at potentially doing some wind energy and run of the river projects.
If they could build some renewable energy plants, those could be connected to a new transmission line, Hopp said.
“It made economic sense at the time, but once the biomass was off the table then we were left scratching our heads.”
Nothing has changed and there are no shovels in the ground, he emphasized.
Meanwhile, Dec. 1 was the deadline for people to comment on the Colwell Creek proposal, and through a Facebook site — Friends of Kleena Kleene/Klinaklini River — dozens of people have voiced their opposition.
Snow Dowd started the site and said presently there are more than 300 members.
“One of the things that really galvanizes concern is seeing a map of the province and that almost every single watershed has a permit in process right now for approval of an independent water project. A lot of the companies are not even B.C. based,” Dowd said from her home near Seattle, Wash. where she is attending school.
It’s “mind boggling” that resources that were initially public crown resources being managed by private companies, she said.
“I have a great concern for the province as a whole, and then obviously for this little valley that doesn’t have any roads or power lines in it. It is one of the very few rivers that cuts into the interior plateau all the way down to the coast at Knights Inlet.”
Dowd was born at Clearwater Lake, between Nimpo Lake and Kleena Kleene, and grew up in a place called Poet Place, a 300-acre homestead at the top end of the Klinaklini River.
“It is exceptionally beautiful, but nobody lives there now,” Dowd said. “One of the things we’ve noticed over the years is how many more bears there are there now. Growing up I never had a fear of bears at all, we saw black bears grazing in the meadows, and there were huge currant patches for them to feed on, but we never worried.”
Dowd wonders if the bears are getting pushed out of other areas and moving into the valley. It’s a large area, ideal for large mammals to come and go freely, she said.
John Erickson agreed. He has been a guide outfitter in the region for 30 years and retained the Klinaklini guide block for 12 years.
“The proposed project would take you into the heart of the Klinaklini. Our objection is that the environment there is unique. It’s absolutely the best habitat. It’s what we call a warm wetland,” Erickson said.
An estimated 30 km of road will run into prime warm wetland habitat, and dams and turbines will be put on tributaries to the Klinaklini.
Those tributaries are used as access corridors by big game to the alpine meadows of Mount McClinchy, he explained.
“Moose and ungulates live in an acoustic environment. You cannot stalk a moose, you can only call them in. Their hearing is so sensitive that it’s practically impossible to sneak up on them, even for a skilled hunter,” Erickson said.
If a turbine were installed on Colwell Creek it would deter moose because of the high frequency noises, he added.
“We’re saying that’s not appropriate for such a sensitive habitat.”
Besides, he added, the moose population in the Chilcotin is in decline.
Mike King of White Saddle Air Services has lived in the region since 1975 and said his family installed its own run-of-the river project on Cherry Creek. His father installed a 1896 Pelton wheel he found off of Bella Coola at an old cannery. In June 2012, a rock got in and damaged parts of the wheel, but the Kings found a customized replacement in Washington and installed it this year, along with some rewiring and work on the original building.
They haven’t burned a drop of diesel fuel or gasoline for power since 1975, he said.
“Our project is very small. We’re about 24 kilowatts,” King said.
As a helicopter pilot, King sees personal benefits for employment, but pointed out run-of-river projects employee line-cutters, electricians, engineers, and will instigate “a whole lot of” job opportunities.
Anything that can create jobs in the West Chilcotin is welcome, King said, adding there are only a dozen kids left in the Tatla Lake school, his kids have left, and if there are jobs and opportunities people might move back.
“Nobody wants to look at a power line, but it sure would be nice to stir up a bit of work out west,” King said.