The public got its first detailed look at a proposal to build a hydro electric power station in a popular recreation area last week.
WindRiver Power Corporation held an open house at Tzeachten Community Centre Wednesday to explain its plans for a run-of-the-river power project on the upper half of Tamihi Creek.
The $50 million plant would generate 15 megawatts of electricity that would then be sold to BC Hydro.
The plan, which has been in the works for more than seven years, still requires provincial approval, as well as a BC Hydro agreement to buy the power.
Nonetheless, the proposal has drawn fire, particularly from the paddling community and environmental groups. Two years ago the application alone was enough for the Outdoor Recreation Council to declare Tamihi a “river to watch” as it released its list of Most Endangered Rivers in 2013.
The plan calls for construction of a dam near the headwaters of the creek that would divert a portion of the water flow to a pipeline that would run adjacent down stream. The water would drive a hydro electric turbine at the base of the pipeline before being returned to the creek. Transmission lines would then carry the electricity to BC Hydro lines in the Chilliwack River Valley.
Greg Trainor, Chief Development Officer with WindRiver, said the amount of water diverted would be tightly monitored by the company and regulated by the province, ensuring there was always adequate flow.
One concern has been the impact the project would have on kayaking in the area. But Trainor said the upper reaches of the creek offers terrain too difficult for most paddlers.
In fact, recreational access to the area would actually be improved, the company says. The forest service road that is currently closed after repeated washouts will be reopened, providing better (although limited in some areas) access to the area.
WindRiver offered detailed examples of how it says it would mitigate environmental impacts, while preserving the recreational potential of the area.
It says it has worked closely with First Nations in the region as well.
The company must still secure environmental approval from the province for construction on an area that will likely total about 30 hectares of leased crown land. It must then be granted permission from the province to “borrow” water to drive its turbine. And finally, BC Hydro must agree to purchase the power.
The Fraser Valley Regional District, meanwhile, has yet to take a position on the project.
Orion Engar, the FVRD’s area director for the Chilliwack River Valley, was at Wednesday’s open house. He said he was there to gather information about the project and the hear from local residents.
Engar said the proposal will come before the board at some point, “but we’re not there yet.”