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Upper Lillooet IPP hits a snag

The Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) has rejected a request from energy company Innergex for three Temporary Use Permits (TUPs) for the Upper Lillooet independent power project.

The permits were required to allow Innergex to start construction at the run-of-river power project's three sites, Boulder Creek, Upper Lillooet River and North Creek.

All three IPP sites are located in SLRD Area C, around 60 kilometres northwest of Pemberton.

SLRD Area C director Susie Gimse said she voted in favour of granting the TUPs at the SLRD board's monthly meeting in Lillooet on Monday, June 24, along with two other directors. Six voted against.

She said that one of the main issues for the board is that some of the land tenures required from the provincial government have not yet been granted. The tenures cover sites where construction will occur as part of the project.

"Innergex they stated they had received two of the permits, possibly last week, but when we pressed them it wasn't clear what the permits were for," Gimse said.

There were also concerns expressed by snowmobiling company owners and members of the sledding community regarding snowmobiling tenures through areas that might now be plowed in the winter. A lack of community benefits and amenities was also a concern, as was grizzly bear habitat encroachment.

Gimse said that the board felt that Innergex had been "somewhat dismissive of their concerns."

She added that Innergex made a presentation to the board prior to the vote on Monday and tried to address several of these concerns, adding that she could see Innergex representatives present at the meeting were frustrated.

"It was a tough one. I certainly supported community concerns that were expressed," Gimse said. "We look forward to talking to the company about public amenities."

But Gimse emphasized: "The rejection was mainly as a result that full (provincial) tenure has not been granted to Innergex."

The three facilities will be developed as a single hydroelectric project with a combined capacity of 121 megawatts.

The B.C. government's Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) passed the environmental assessment for the Upper Lillooet in January, with Environment Minister Terry Lake and Energy and Mines and Natural Gas Minister Rich Coleman approving the project following the EAO's review of proponent Creek Power Inc.'s 900-plus page environment assessment, submitted last fall.

The project also includes a 72-kilometre, 230-kilovolt transmission line to send power to BC Hydro's transmission line near Rutherford Creek. The cost of construction for the project is pegged at $420 million, with operation costs of $8.9 million per year.

This article was originally published in The Pique newsmagazine, and is reprinted here with permission.

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