Rosy picture?

The article “AltaGas flows run-of-river opportunities in NW” paints a rosy picture of the Forrest Kerr project – a major industrial development now underway on a fish-bearing tributary of the mighty Stikine River.

Editor :

Re: “AltaGas flows run-of-river opportunities in NW” – April 5, 2011.

The article “AltaGas flows run-of-river opportunities in NW” paints a rosy picture of the Forrest Kerr project – a major industrial development now underway on a fish-bearing tributary of the mighty Stikine River. It involves damming and diverting almost the entire Iskut River through a 3 km tunnel 35 feet in diameter, generating 850,000 tons of waste rock that has not been drill-core tested for acid drainage potential.

This project illustrates how companies game our broken environmental assessment (EA) process. The original proposal for a 100 megawatt (MW) diversion and low-voltage roadside transmission line received a provincial EA certificate in 2003. Conservationists chose not to oppose the project after giving it careful scrutiny and consulting with First Nations. The project design has since been amended five times, doubling the capacity, and requiring a high-voltage transmission line and right-of-way. Amazingly, a new provincial EA was never required, and the 195-MW project was still under the 200-MW threshold for a federal “comprehensive” assessment. Clever.

Now AltaGas is gunning for nearby McLymont and Volcano Creeks. The Volcano Creek project will not undergo an official provincial EA, and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency seems unaware that the current combined capacity of the three adjacent projects (268 MW) would be over the 200-MW threshold.

Over 100 rivers and streams in NW BC have now been staked by developers and the Northwest Transmission Line is sure to bring more, along with mines and other development. If these projects continue to avoid serious scrutiny we can expect continued degradation of fish and wildlife populations and their habitats in northern watersheds.

Aaron Hill

Watershed Watch Salmon Society

Victoria, BC