BC's Rivers at Risk

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 not 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 long-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.


Take Action

Protect BC's Wild Rivers and Public Power

Write a letter now!

You can help protect BC’s rivers, streams and fish from damage caused by the private hydro-power industry! Your actions over the last few years have kept rivers and creeks such as the Upper Pitt and Glacier and Howser Creeks running wild, and have helped save ratepayers tens of millions of dollars in environmentally damaging and very expensive electricity.

Private run-of-river hydro projects in the province are increasingly coming under scrutiny as a mountain of evidence emerges about poor planning, non-compliance with regulations, and water flow management problems that threaten fish.

  • A Freedom of Information (FOI) request filed by the Wilderness Committee revealed internal government documents that show over 700 cases of non-compliance at 16 independent power projects (IPPs) operating in the South Coast region of BC in 2010. These non-compliance incidents include ramping problems (fluctuating water levels that can strand and kill fish) as well as numerous problems with reporting and monitoring by the industry.
  • Another FOI made public by the Wilderness Committee in May 2013 revealed a 90% non-compliance rate at operating IPPs. More disturbingly, BC government staff revealed: "We have not had sufficient staff resources to monitor permit condition compliance." Read more...
  • To top it off, a report on IPP monitoring commissioned by the Department of Fisheries of Oceans found numerous problems with monitoring of projects.

The startling number of incidents recorded in these government documents is proof not only of the environmental damage these projects are causing, the massive financial impact to BC Hydro (our best tool against climate change) but also of the lack of enforcement from both provincial and federal agencies that regulate the industry.

In 2013, the Wilderness Committee produced an educational report about this issue, entitled “Defend BC’s Wild Rivers”. The report delves into the environmental, financial and political impacts of the province’s current energy policy, and explains how poor management at run-of-river projects in BC is causing problems for fish that live downstream of these facilities. It also raises concerns over the financial threat that private power poses to BC Hydro, because of contracts with IPPs that have forced our public utility to buy power that we don’t need, at rates much higher than market value.

If you are concerned about the privatization of our wild rivers, we encourage you to take action today. Use our online letter-writing tool to write to BC Premier Christy Clark, urging the provincial government to enact a moratorium on IPP development and ensure compliance and enforcement of existing regulations.

Click here to write your letter now!


Photo: Glacier and Howser Creeks were prevented from being dammed and diverted for private power. Photo by Gary Diers.

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