The fate of the Beaver River Hydro Project is still undecided. After initial comments from a federal assessment concerning fish and fish habitat, Selkirk Power’s Run of River Projects will be required to provide more information in the next step of the assessment process.
Selkirk Power is a Kootenay-based Canadian renewable energy development company. In 2008, Selkirk Power presented a proposal to create a run of river hydropower project on tributaries of the Beaver River. ROR hydropower is a renewable energy project that works by using a portion of a river’s water to power turbines, which in turn spin generators to produce electricity. The water is then returned to the river farther down the stream.
All ROR projects have criteria that must be followed. This includes making sure that animal habitat is not endangered.
“We’ve been concerned about at-risk species in these watersheds since the Beaver River project was proposed, and hundreds of people have expressed opposition to the project over the last two years,” Rachel Darvill, Wildsight’s Columbia Headwaters program manager said.
The Beaver River Hydropower Project would include ROR installations on Cupola, Alder and Ventego Creeks, located northwest of Golden.
“We think it’s important to understand that comments received to date are one step in the ongoing permitting process. We are reviewing the agencies’ comments and clearly we will need to supply them with more information and that’s what we are working on,” Dave Karassowitsch of Selkirk Power said.
“Any development has impacts, whether with recreation, mining or forestry. We are minimizing the impact to every extent we can. We are working hard to ensure that we do not cause a negative effect on any habitats or species living in or near the creeks. Our goal is to provide the permitting agencies with enough scientific data to determine any environmental risks are minimized.”
The federal assessment included members from the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, the Ktunaxa Nation Council and Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
“The team was put together to review the fisheries impacts under the Canadian Environmental Assessment,” Darvill explained, “it concluded that the project as proposed presents high-to-unacceptable risks to habitat and at-risk species.”
The review also stated that Selkirk’s IPP does not “provide the information necessary to justify the potential impacts to the fish and fish habitat resource in both Ventego and Cupola Creeks.”
The review team’s document stated that “there continues to be a great deal of concern related to winter flows and the effects of winter flow diversion on overwintering habitat and icing conditions and stream connectivity. Given the current level of understanding of the systems involved and the probable response of the biota to the proposed changes in instream flow the current proposed Minimum Instream Flows are unacceptable from a fish and fish habitat stand-point.”
Over 8000 rivers and creeks in B.C. have been recognized as potential areas for ROR renewable energy projects. Only fifteen run of river projects were awarded contracts in BC Hydro’s most recent 2008 Clean Power Call and each one of those must be approved by the province and follow strict rules and regulations to ensure low impact on the surrounding area and environment.
“We believe that we need to wean ourselves off fossil fuel. The local communities will need the electricity that our company would be producing to reduce fossil fuel dependancies , which is critical,” Karassowitsch explained, ”that is the focus of what our company is trying to do.”
For more information about Wildsight, visit www.wildsight.ca. For more information on Selkirk Power and the Beaver Valley ROR project, visit www.selkirkpower.com.