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Enviros celebrate provincial termination of Glacier/Howser project

In September of 2009 over 1100 people attended a meeting in Kaslo regarding the Glacier Howser Independent Power Project. - Sam Van Schie photo
In September of 2009 over 1100 people attended a meeting in Kaslo regarding the Glacier Howser Independent Power Project.
— image credit: Sam Van Schie photo

The proposed Glacier/Howser independent power project review process has been terminated according to a letter sent by the BC Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) last week.

The Assessment Office's letter to AXOR/Purcell Green Power Inc. (AXOR) dated Nov. 27 notes that information requirements have not been met, public comments made in 2009 have not been responded to, and environmental issues identified by the EAO Working Group have not been addressed.

“For these reasons, I have decided to terminate the assessment of the proposed Glacier/Howser Project in accordance with my authority,” reads the letter signed by Dave Nikolejsin, Associate Deputy Minister.

The Montreal-based AXOR planned to build a 98 megawatt hydro project diverting four creeks into a 16-km underground pipe near Kaslo. The power project met with a great deal of opposition from local residents concerned about its impact.

West Kootenay EcoSociety has led the charge against the project, citing impacts to sensitive species including bull trout and caribou.

“After fighting this proposal for over five years, we are celebrating the final nail in the coffin," says West Kootenay EcoSociety's David Reid. “This is a great example of how good science and a strong public voice can work together to protect our ecosystems. We still need to give our wild rivers lasting protection from smaller for-profit power schemes, but this is a great victory.”

The environmental review was suspended in September of 2009 after what Reid describes as a raucous meeting in Kaslo attended by over 1100 citizens.

The Working Group of scientists and First Nation representatives had asked AXOR for more data to support claims that ecosystems wouldn’t be impacted.

According to Nikolejsin, information provided earlier this month by Simon Gourdeau of AXOR was inadequate and no further extensions of the review process would occur.

Neil Murphy is a local representative for AXOR. He says the EAO decision is disappointing but not surprising.

“It has been very apparent that the decisions regarding the Glacier/Howser Project have been highly political, by the Working Group and EAO, and were not based on scientific studies or facts,” he says.

Murphy says for much of the last 9 months, all of the environmental studies for the Glacier/Howser Project addressing the winter flows and fish concerns have been ignored by EAO and the Working Group even though the studies where thorough, extensive and on time.

AXOR is evaluating their available options including third party evaluation of the EAO process.

“No this is not the end,” says Murphy.

The proponent can make a new application for a revised project. A smaller project less than 50 megawatts would not need an Environmental Review.

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