Rainbow, Burnt Bridge, Chipmunk, Tzoonie, Volcano and Statlu are not just colourful names - they are some of the many wild creeks and rivers found throughout British Columbia. They are also just a few of the over 700 water bodies that have been staked by private power corporations over the last seven years in BC.
The rush to stake our streams and rivers was triggered by the 2002 Energy Plan when the provincial government forbade BC Hydro, our very profitable crown corporation, from producing new sources of hydroelectricity as part of a government shift to deregulate the electricity sector in BC. Since that time there has been a 1040 percent increase in waterpower license applications, with mining companies, stock promoters and even U. S. giant General Electric looking to develop BC streams and rivers for power.
The proliferation of private hydro projects, also know as Independent Power Projects (IPPs), appears green and sustainable at the outset but is fraught with problems:
- There is no provincial planning and local governments, through the enactment of the infamous Bill 30 have had their zoning authority removed.
- Most projects do no undergo an environmental assessment and even if they do the cumulative impacts of the transmission lines, logging, road networks, and river diversions which accompany these projects are not evaluated by the provincial government.
- Not surprisingly, there is growing public concern regarding the wisdom of turning over our rivers and the production of hydroelectricity to the private sector.
The Wilderness Committee recognizes that we have something unique in British Columbia: a public utility which produces low-carbon energy, provides for BC’s energy security, promotes conservation initiatives, can engage in low-term planning and is answerable and accountable to the people of our province.
In an era of climate change it is essential that we think ahead and make wise decisions. There is a right way and a wrong way to produce green power – let’s make sure we do it the right way. Join the Wilderness Committee in calling for a moratorium on river power projects until they are regionally planned, environmentally appropriate, acceptable to First Nations, and publicly owned.