By Sarah Newton
Residents of British Columbia are facing the potential devastation of a pristine wilderness area as a result of a contentious run-of-river power project in the north east of Revelstoke.
Atla Energy Corporation, an IPP proponent from Vancouver, wants to build a 48-megawatt power project on the pristine Wood River, in the Rocky Mountains north east of Revelstoke. The company applied to the province for the license in early 2009.
The North Columbia Environmental Society, Wildsight and the Council of Canadians Golden chapter say the project would harm a unique ecosystem and provide very little economic return.
If you missed the screening on Monday, you can see it free online at www.wildsight.ca/news/wood-river-wild-video.
“Basically, Atla Energy Corporation wants to turn a natural wild river into a man-made canal designed for power production,” said Rachel Darvill, Wildsight Program Manager, and presenter at the NCES event on Monday night, “We knew that, without more public awareness, this application would not slow down—it’s not even required to go through a provincial or federal Environmental Assessment process. We wanted to say, ‘Wait a minute—let’s be clear that this is a very special place—this river should never be for sale for private profits.’”
The long term plans for the project would put in about 20 kilometres of new roads, 76 kilometres of transmission lines, and 10 kilometres of river diversion in old growth temperate rainforest that is basically unchanged since David Thompson made his trip down the Athabasca Trail in 1811—following an original First Nations route.
“This region hasn’t been logged and is an intact wilderness—in fact, stakeholders have agreed never to log it, based on its biological and historical values. There are no roads. The explorers’ trail blazes are still visible on the trees,” Darvill said.
In addition, she said, the Wood River Valley is refuge for endangered mountain caribou and provides wildlife connectivity over the Athabasca Pass. “The valley links Hamber Provincial Park, Jasper National Park and Cummins Provincial Park,” she said. “Endangered mountain caribou depend upon this wilderness on the west slopes of the Rockies.”
Wildsight, the NCES, and the Council of Canadians encourages people to view the film and take the action: write to Premier Campbell and MLA Norm Macdonald, request a moratorium on IPPs in the province until there is an impact assessment mechanism in place, and reinstate local government’s right to accept or refuse run-of-river hydroelectric projects.
“We need to put more effort towards energy conservation,” Darvill said, “instead of in projects that impact remote wilderness areas in a never-ending bid to increase power generation.”