Crowd protests IPP project
By Sam Van Schie
Opponents of the proposed Glacier/Howser private hydro project crammed into a school gym in Kaslo, filling every chair, lining the walls and sitting on the floor during a project open house on June 23.
Many people in Nelson were disappointed they had to travel so far to the meeting, despite numerous requests and petitions to the BC Environmental Assessment Office asking the meeting be held in Nelson.
During the meeting West Kootenay Society spokesperson Lee-Ann Unger again asked the EAO to reconsider the decision not to meet in Nelson.
Project Assessment Director Garry Alexander noted that many people there were from Nelson.
“I see many good comments here coming from the people of Nelson,” he said.
“At this time I don’t see a need to reconsider.”
The EcoSociety sent about 125 supporters up to Kaslo on school busses and many more Nelsonites made the trip themselves.
After the meeting Unger estimated about half of the more than 1,200 people at the meeting were from Nelson.
Nelson-Creston MLA Michelle Mungall made the trip. She put her question to the EAO late in the meeting, explaining it had been her intent to just listen to what her constitutes were saying, but felt the need to get up to address the panels.
“Walking in here we were worried that we were going to be dismissed as a bunch of hippies, a bunch of people who are just angry,” she said. “But what you’re seeing here tonight is incredible passion and fervor for the land we live on.”
It wasn’t just figure heads who waited in the long line to have their turn to speak.
Sandra Nelkin, an 11-year resident of Nelson, expressed her concern about the project generating more power than the Kootenays could use and asked how much would be sold to the United States.
Simon Gourdeau from Axor couldn’t answer her question. He said that would be up to BC Hydro who, he said, would benefit greatly from the project.
“BC Hydro structured the project, so it will never lose a penny on this,” he said. “We’ll always sell it to BC Hydro at 70 per cent the market rate. They will always be getting the power cheaper than they could if importing it.”
After the meeting, Nelkin said she was very disappointed by the response from Axor and said they seemed to dodge her question.
“It’s a very flawed process,” said Nelkin.
This sentiment was expressed by many of the project opponents who asked why there wasn’t an independent third party in the room.
The open house had a panel of representatives from Axor, the proponent and hopeful owners for the project, and a second panel of environmental officers.
Axor was scheduled to make a presentation about the project. However, the school closed at 10:30 p.m., leaving a long lineup of people still hoping to speak in the first scheduled question period, which began at 7:30 p.m.
After the meeting, Alexander said while it was unfortunate that speakers were cut short and Axor couldn’t present, they had no plan to return to Kaslo to finish the meeting.
“I think everybody had lots of opportunity to gather information and at this time they can still submit comment by e-mail,” he said.
He said the meeting was a little bigger than he expected and many people were asking questions outside of the scope of the project, such as asking about the energy planning or suggesting conservation measures in place of further development.
These comments, he said, wouldn’t be included in his summary to the minister, however anything related to the project would be in the review and also addressed on their website.
Throughout the meeting people were yelling and cheering from the gallery to express their dismay over the project. Alexander noted this meeting was a little rowdier than most that he saw on this project.
Unger said she hopes the panels got the message that people of the Kootenays don’t want this project.
“You can run, but you can’t hide in the West Kootenay,” said Unger. “They tried to avoid public input by avoiding a meeting in a more populated area and it simply didn’t work.”
People who missed the public meeting in Kaslo can download a copy of the application and information about the environmental assessments at eao.gov.bc.ca.
Comments can be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or sent by post to Garry Alexander, Project Assessment Director / Environmental Assessment Office / PO Box 9426 Stn Prov Govt / Victoria, BC V8W 9V1