Public pours cold water on upper Pitt run-of-river project

Since B.C.’s Environmental Assessment Office began accepting comments two weeks ago on a proposed run-of-river power project in the upper Pitt River valley, the office hasn’t received one submission from the public in support of the development.

Thirty-two out of the 36 submissions posted on the office’s Web site, as of Friday (March 7), express opposition to or concern about the Upper Pitt River Water Power Project. The other four submissions—as do many of the aforementioned 32—urge the Environmental Assessment Office to extend the 45-day comment period, which began February 23, or to hold additional public meetings in Vancouver, Burnaby, or Coquitlam.

Northwest Cascade Power Ltd., a subsidiary of Run of River Power Inc., wants to build seven run-of-river facilities on eight tributaries of the Pitt River. The deadline for comments on the draft terms of reference for the project’s environmental-assessment application is April 8.

The company has also applied under British Columbia’s park-boundary-adjustment policy to remove 70 hectares of land—21 hectares permanently—from Pinecone Burke Provincial Park to install a power line from the upper Pitt to Squamish. B.C. Parks has promised to post on-line the submissions it receives during a 60-day comment period ending April 2.

A number of the submissions on the environmental assessment are addressed to B.C. environment minister Barry Penner.

Nathan Simpson of New Westminster wrote: “I oppose private power developments on the Upper Pitt watershed and power lines through pristine Pinecone-Burke Park. This so-called “green” Run Of The River initiative is going to devastate an already fragile piece of wilderness. I don’t see how an Environment Minister could let something like this happen.”

In an e-mail submission, Joseph Warren Cook, a salmon fisher and a Katzie First Nation member, remarks that, based on all that’s known about the impacts of waterpower projects on the environment, the upper Pitt development shouldn’t even be considered. “This area infringes on the traditional territory of my ancestral First Nations background and therefore I genuinely oppose the project,” Cook wrote.

Leah Lindsay of Maple Ridge simply scrawled “NO” on a public-comment form.

The first two submissions posted on the site represent form letters sent in by a total of 66 parties.

On March 4, Squamish district council approved motions stating its opposition to changing the boundaries of Pinecone Burke and the proposed power-line route, the Squamish Chief reported.

An additional meeting promised by Run of River, after an open house in Pitt Meadows was shut down due to overcrowding, has yet to be scheduled.

The public can send comments on the draft terms of reference for the environmental assessment to UpperPittRiver@gov.bc.ca. Submissions on the park adjustment can be e-mailed to PineconeBurke@gov.bc.ca.

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