It was obvious to any of the 200 or so people who showed up that the purpose of this event was to sell the attendees on the benefits of these seven projects, which would put dams on most of the tributaries of the Upper Pitt River. The attendees included employees of two agencies of the Government of British Columbia, Parks BC and the Environmental Assessment Office. Their stated purpose for being there was to collect input from the public on what Run of River Power proposes to do.
To give you just one example of the input they received: “We want you to go away.” - Elaine Golds, Burke Mountain Naturalists
It's safe to say that Ms. Golds' opinion was shared by pretty much everyone in the room except for the seven employees of Run of River Power who were present. The main reason for the hostility is, in order to connect the power generated by their dams to the BC Hydro power grid, they propose to run power lines through Pinecone Burke Provincial Park, which was protected by the provincial government in 1995 as a result of efforts by the Burke Mountain Naturalists, the Western Canada Wilderness Committee, and former cabinet minister Hon. John Cashore. Cashore and a current MLA, Michael Sather, were among the handful of people who got to speak before the Ramada Inn received a visit from the fire marshal. Like Golds, Sather's comments were directly to the point: “Withdraw this proposal”.
The defense given by the Run of River Power people, that they have to put in power lines somewhere to get the electricity out, is silly, because it doesn't address the obvious issue: why put their dams on the Upper Pitt in the first place? The dams are not addressing any real energy need. British Columbia currently exports power, and has substantial potential wind power.
The only actual problem here is the idealogical bias of the Liberal Government of BC, which has been in power since 2001. They have a history of fixing things that aren't broken: out-sourcing medical records to Maximus, separating management of BC Ferries from the government, and giving away BC Rail. More to the point, they restricted BC Hydro from developing new sources of power, which is very convenient for operations like Run of River Power and Ledcor, a major contributor to the Liberal Party of BC. The only difference between BC Hydro developing power resources on public land and Run of River Power developing power resources on public land is, Run of River Power's owners get a windfall return on investment, at our expense. That's right, the Liberal Government requires BC Hydro to buy electricity at an inflated price from people like Run of River Power, and pass that inflated price along to consumers.
Another example of silliness from the Run of River Power “consultants” was their analysis of impacts on wildlife. Bird-watchers and naturalists have been going into this area for 100 years. A positive assessment of Pinecone Burke's value as parkland was done by the government prior to its establishment as a park. How can any study done by someone who has been there for only a few weeks, and has been paid by a company with a major stake in approval of their project, have any credibility whatsoever?
Which leads me to the credibility of the Feb. 28 “event”. Why would Parks BC and the Environmental Assessment Office choose a venue paid for by Run of River Power to collect public input? They said that the input would be passed along to the Minister of Environment. Well, why wasn't the minister, Barry Penner, present to hear this input with his own ears? Because it might be inappropriate for him to be in the same room with a company that has a proposal on the table, maybe?
The Upper Pitt River lies between Pinecone Burke Provincial Park and Golden Ears Provincial Park, the most-visited park in British Columbia. The nearby communities, Pitt Meadows, Maple Ridge, and Mission, have experienced huge population growth. Having a pristine wilderness like Pinecone Burke nearby is an asset that only fools would try to attach a price tag to.
British Columbia's Premier and Cabinet have already gotten a great deal of “input” from proponents of projects like the Upper Pitt River ones, and when the Run of River Powers and Ledcors want to provide them with even more “input”, all they have to do is pick up a phone. To claim that three meetings in undersized rooms satisfy any sort of requirement for public input is ludicrous. For more information on what “independent power projects” are really about, see http://ourrivers.ca/ and http://ashlu.info/. And, if you want to voice your opinion to Minister of Environment Barry Penner without having it filtered by Parks BC or the Environmental Assessment Office, phone (250) 387-1187 or send an email to env.minister AT gov.bc.ca.
Article by Rafe Mair in The Tyee: Campbell's Power to Harm Rivers