Skip to content

Return to the Ashlu

It's hard to believe that the simple and beautiful waters of a local river can create such a tempest as has the Ashlu.

It's hard to believe that the simple and beautiful waters of a local river can create such a tempest as has the Ashlu.

The storm has been brewing since the first rezoning application last year, when the Squamish Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) decided to listen to public outcry and deny the application, which would have paved the way for an independent power project to be constructed.

It's a tough choice - green renewable energy using the power of the river versus tourism and recreation dollars derived from a pristine and untouched waterway.

The SLRD opted to go with tourism and stand behind the community's vocal element.

Their stance wasn't too hard to understand: let's not do anything on any rivers in the area until we make some kind of plan to address all these issues.

Then the province came up with its own plan. Their plan was to put most of the rivers on the SLRD list on "reserve" until a study was complete, but not the Ashlu.

So in effect, the SLRD were being told they could not decide for their constituents, because the decision was being taken out of their hands - or more accurately, steered.

This week the rezoning application came back before SLRD. So did a lot of people, both for and against the application.

It is notable that the Lil'wat Nation and Squamish Nation don't seem to see eye to eye on the issue.

Those are the voices in the debate that bear a good listen.

The Squamish Nation want the proposal to go through. They, along with the province and the IPP proponents, are the only other people who want this to happen, apparently.

They make a pretty good point, saying that the government has been making decisions on their lands for uncounted years without their approval, but now when they want something to happen - a governing body is denying them that right.

As much as the Ashlu is coveted for its recreational values and tourism aspect, Squamish Nation has used and claimed that area long before anyone else. How can anyone tell them that their desires for the land or water are any more or less valid than those of kayakers and other users?

Although when the Nation starts using threats, as when they essentially said that if the SLRD wants to work on any more projects on Nation lands and wants cooperation that they had better reconsider their decision, that smacks more of blackmail than working towards a reasonable solution.

It is definitely some rough water to navigate, and perhaps the SLRD did the right thing in putting off the decision and forcing the province to come up with something.

In the end, we can only accept that there are no easy answers, and nor will there be a decision made that will satisfy everyone.