BC Parks “emasculated” by Liberals, Pinecone Burke defenders say

At an open house on a proposal to build a power line across Pinecone Burke Provincial Park, environmentalist Joe Foy demanded to know if BC Parks had arranged for public meetings on the matter to be held in Vancouver and Coquitlam.

Brett Hudson, a senior parks and protected areas planner with the Ministry of Environment, responded by saying that the proponent is in charge of public consultations on its application to remove 70 hectares from the park. Northwest Cascade Power Ltd., a subsidiary of Run of River Power Inc., has proposed the electric-transmission line as part of its plan to develop a massive waterpower project in the upper Pitt River valley.

When Hudson told Foy that he should ask the company what its rationale was for holding meetings in Squamish, Pitt Meadows, and Mission, the Wilderness Committee’s national campaign director exploded.

“I will not ask this private company,” Foy bellowed on February 28 in Pitt Meadows. “This private company wants to rip the guts out of the park. This private company wants to put all eight of the upper Pitt’s major tributaries in big pipes—30 kilometres of pipes. You are the park’s representative.”

Foy, who sat on the province’s Pinecone Lake–Burke Mountain Study Team, said meetings in Vancouver and Coquitlam that preceded the park’s creation in 1995 were the best attended in BC Parks’ history, at least up until that time.

Hudson pointed out that the Provincial Park Boundary Adjustment Policy, Process and Guidelines—approved by the Liberal government in 2004—stipulate that proponents are responsible for ensuring appropriate consultation has taken place.

BC Parks has “totally been emasculated by this government”, Michael Sather, the New Democrat MLA for Maple Ridge–Pitt Meadows, told the meeting.

British Columbia’s minister of environment, Barry Penner, will make the first major decision on the park adjustment, when he decides whether to recommend to cabinet that it go forward. The change would also have to be approved by cabinet and the legislature.

In an interview, Jeremy McCall, executive director of the Outdoor Recreation Council of B.C., said Penner shouldn’t be in a position where he can recommend damage be done to a park.

“The minister of environment, Barry Penner, is responsible for B.C. parks,” McCall told the Straight in his office. “He should be the champion of B.C. parks.”

The fire marshal shut down the Pitt Meadows open house an hour early, because the room was too small for the more than 400 people who showed up. Faced with demands for a fourth meeting, Run of River Power president and CEO Jako Krushnisky acquiesced. The date and location of that open house have yet to be announced.

Almost 300 people attended the Mission open house on March 4, according to the Wilderness Committee.

The deadline to comment on the park-adjustment application is April 2. The public can send submissions to PineconeBurke@gov.bc.ca.

Comments on the draft terms of reference for the run-of-river project’s environment-assessment application can be submitted until April 8. Those can be e-mailed to UpperPittRiver@gov.bc.ca.

Opponents of the province’s private-power “gold rush” plan to hold a protest on Tuesday (March 11) outside the B.C. Power Summit. The rally will begin at 1 p.m. at Simon Fraser University’s Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue (580 West Hastings Street).