The Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) board of directors this week adopted an amendment bylaw in response to recent independent power project (IPP) development pressure on Sea to Sky corridor rivers and streams.
The amendment states that as part of the Regional Growth Strategy process, the SLRD identifies the need for the development of a strategy for IPP development to be conducted in consultation with provincial agencies, area residents, recreation industry representatives, the energy sector and First Nations.
The decision includes a list of rivers which have been identified as high priority for analysis. The list includes rivers such as the Elaho, Ashlu and Upper Squamish, and creeks such as Sigurd, Callaghan and Sims.
"We have also requested that provincial agencies develop an IPP strategy as soon as possible," said John Turner, SLRD chair.
As part of the amendment, the Ministry of Energy and Ministry of Sustainable Resource Management will be asked to initiate a regional IPP strategy.
While the battle surrounding the Ashlu River is on hold, Stuart Smith, river projects coordinator for the Whitewater Kayaking Association of B.C. (WKABC) is fighting for recreational values on the Cheakamus River.
Smith said the proposed water-use plan for the Cheakamus will reduce flows and threaten a vibrant recreational industry. Smith represented the Sea to Sky rafting operators, the B.C. Rivers Association, the Recreational Canoe Association of B.C. and WKABC.
Smith said more than half the current commercial operators will be forced to cease operations if the water-use plan is enacted. In the Sea to Sky corridor, 75 full-time jobs are created through Cheakamus River recreation, he said. Smith said the Cheakamus has been identified as a growth segment and a unique river not found elsewhere in B.C. He said the river is also used in the winter for eagle-viewing tours.
Although B.C. Hydro hired a consultant to assess needs at the dam, Smith said the facilitator now works for B.C. Hydro. He said recreational interests were not adequately represented by the facilitator.
"I sympathize with you because I have had a similar experience with B.C. Hydro. It seems that from start to finish, they manipulate to get the results needed and I have no reason to believe they didn't do the same to you," said Russ Oakley, Area A director.
As a result of Smith's presentation, the SLRD adopted a motion to write a letter expressing concern over a lack of opportunities for local governments to participate in the water-use planning process. The SLRD has requested the chance to provide comment before a final decision on the Cheakamus River is made.