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Ashlu IPP debate comes to SLRD Monday

The proposed Ashlu Creek independent power project (IPP) has been one of the hottest topics in Squamish as of late, with many different parties expressing concern either for or against the project.

The proposed Ashlu Creek independent power project (IPP) has been one of the hottest topics in Squamish as of late, with many different parties expressing concern either for or against the project.

This week they'll have a chance to voice their opinion in an official and formal public hearing on Monday (Sept. 13), hosted by the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) at the Sea to Sky Hotel in Squamish.

The primary issues of the meeting are to provide the public with any necessary information about the project, and to give residents and representatives a forum in which to openly discuss any concerns they may have.

"The purpose of the open house is for the public to get any information they need from Ledcor and to have their questions answered," said John Turner, SLRD Area D representative. "The consultation is an opportunity for anyone to ask Ledcor any questions they may have and to voice their concerns in regards to the project.

"Obviously this is a fairly contentious issue in Squamish," added Turner, "but this is another opportunity to get things clarified."

Representatives from Ledcor Power, the company who will be operating the IPP, will present details of the proposed project on the Ashlu, and to discuss questions, comments and concerns residents may have.

Ledcor has applied to the SLRD to have the area re-zoned to suit the requirements of the project. It is currently zoned as limited use but Ledcor wants the SLRD to re-zone the land to industrial use. The future of the project depends on the approval of the re-zoning application.

Squamish council dealt with the issue of the proposed run-of-the-river power project that Ledcor wants to build on the Ashlu this week.

At a regular council meeting held on Tuesday (Sept. 7), staff recommended that council formally declare its opposition to the project. Stuart Smith of the Whitewater Kayaking Association of B.C attended the meeting and reiterated his opposition to the project.

"This summer there was just over 600 user days on the Ashlu by our local club," Smith told council. "Our club has about 80 members."

After Smith's speech, Mayor Ian Sutherland suggested that council defer the strongly-worded motion until after members of council had a chance to learn more about Ledcor's stance on the issue.

Council members met with Ledcor's project manager, Kelly Boychuk, on Wednesday (Sept. 8) at Ledcor's project information office in the Squamish Station shopping mall.

Boychuk said the meeting was set up because some members of council indicated they were not able to attend a public open house meeting on Monday (Sept. 13).

Coun. Corinne Lonsdale indicated that she didn't need to wait to hear from Ledcor as she was prepared to pass the motion right away.

Coun. Dave Fenn agreed with Lonsdale and Coun. Ray Peters said he was ready to vote in support of the motion. Coun. Raj Kahlon wanted to defer the vote.

"As of right now I'm opposed to the project," Sutherland said. "I'd like to defer this motion until after we've given Ledcor a chance to hold their information open house."

The members of council voted to defer the motion until a later date with Fenn, Lonsdale and Peters opposed. Council will revisit the staff recommendation to oppose the project at a future meeting.

The District of Squamish is only a referral agency, so its stance will not block the project. The SLRD is looking for feedback from various agencies as the SLRD decides if it will rezone the area from its current limited use status. SLRD rezoning is a key part of the approval process for the power project. A regional district denial of Ledcor's application will put the project's future in doubt. The province might be forced to consider overruling the local government and giving Ledcor special consideration to go ahead.

The public hearing begins at 6:30 p.m. on Monday (Sept. 13) at the Sea to Sky Hotel.