It's been a long process but this week the Squamish Lilloett Regional District (SLRD) Board
issued their decision and denied the re-zoning request required for construction of the proposed
Ashlu Hydroelectric Project. This decision followed a long series of public meetings and
emotional testimony. In reaching their decision, the SLRD Board recognized the numerous concerns
put forward by those who expressed opposition to the project, noting that the project did not fit
with the SLRD's own policies on these projects, due to the lack of community support and other
To the paddling community, which has from the outset noted that there are problems with the
approval process for these projects, and with the unplanned development of power projects, Stuart
Smith and the folks with the Whitewater Kayaking Association of BC extend a tremendous thank you,
for the years of tremendous effort which have gone into the ongoing battle to have the value of
the Sea to Sky waterways recognized. We all hope that an outcome of this process has been a
recognition for the need of a comprehensive regional-based planning effort so that future long
battles can be avoided.
For those of us who are users of region's waterways, we have taken a great step forward towards
ensuring stewardship of the resources that define the region and are the focus of our passion for
wild rivers. They fulfill not only our needs for recreation and employment, but are the backdrop
to a way of life. This victory represents a legacy valued not only by the paddling community, but
future residents and visitors to the special area that our friends in the Squamish paddling
community call home. This victory did not come easily and bridges within the community will need
to be mended. In particular we as a paddling community have an obligation to demonstrate respect
for the lands of the Squamish Nation who looked upon the hydropower development as an opportunity
to bring a long-term economic benefit to their community.
Thanks to Stuart Smith for providing the information for keeping the community informed and
providing local leadership on this issue, and special thanks to AW member Shane Robinson for
representing the interests of AW's membership and helping rally folks from the States. Thanks
also to those who value the tremendous world-class paddling opportunities in the Sea to Sky
corridor and who took the time to write in: you made a difference.
Summary of Issues Raised at the Public Hearing
The following synopsis is taken from
the SLRD staff report and provides a brief overview of the key issues raised at the public
hearings and in written comments (view the full
staff report ):
Importance Of The Ashlu Project To The Squamish Nation - Several members of the Squamish
Nation spoke with considerable emotion on the value of this project to their community. The
project is clearly an important initiative for the Squamish Nation members, providing both job
skills and meaningful employment, and an opportunity for longer-term economic benefit for the
community when the project is fully owned by the Squamish Nation in 40 years. The project
represents a chance to become contributors to society, and to realize benefits from development
in their traditional territory. The project is considered environmentally responsible, in
keeping with the social values of the Squamish, and speakers noted that Ledcor has treated them
respectfully. Several speakers also mentioned that recreational use has not brought them any
jobs, and kayakers have not sought their permission for use of the river.
Impacts on Upper Squamish Valley residents - Residents of the Upper Squamish Valley have
participated in the review of this project since the initial public meetings were held, and
have, overall, consistently opposed the project. Potential noise and traffic impacts during
construction, proximity of the laydown areas to residences, and further industrialization of a
highly scenic and valuable area were key issues mentioned. Many speakers also indicated that
the information provided by Ledcor has been misleading regarding the size of weir/dam and
reservoir being created, and that a project of this size should go through a full provincial
Environmental Assessment. Residents also indicated the importance of the Ashlu for recreation
use and businesses that flourish in the valley, and expressed concerns that there is no overall
plan for IPP development. It is also noted that a very small number of speakers from this
community spoke in favour of the project.
Impacts on Kayaking and Recreational Use - Many speakers and letters from individuals
and recreation associations indicated the value of the Ashlu, particularly the box canyon, as a
"gem" and as a world-class attraction that is widely known and used by the kayaking community,
including many residents of the United States. Many also noted that the mitigation measures
proposed were not acceptable, and that the real attraction of the river is that it is
free-flowing without dams or other structures. Other speakers also noted the growing economic
importance of the recreation industry, and that there is no overall plan to determine which
rivers should be protected. Many speakers also noted they were not against IPP development, but
were opposed to a project on the Ashlu, which is more valuable left as is.
Lack of Overall IPP/Energy Strategy - this issue was raised throughout the hearing by
many speakers, who reiterated the need for the LRMP process or other overall strategy to
address the large number of potential IPP projects in the SLRD. Other speakers noted the
current "gold rush" approach to approval of individual IPP's does not consider the longterm or
cumulative effects of the projects and transmission lines associated with up to 60 more IPP's.
An overall strategy is needed to prioritize the streams that are suitable for IPP developments.
Level of Environmental Assessment for 49 KW size - The need for a full provincial
Environmental Assessment due to the project being submitted just below the 50 MW EA threshold
was raised by numerous speakers. Speakers indicated that the EA process is transparent and
includes a much broader level of input on social and economic issues. Ledcor also addressed
this issue, indicating that the same provincial and federal agencies and criteria are used in
both the CEAA and EA processes.
Economic Value of the Project to the Local Economy - A large number of employees,
contractors and professionals associated with Ledcor and Peter Kiewit and Sons, as well as
other individuals, spoke to the economic benefits of the project through local employment and
purchase of goods and services, and indicated that the project has received all environmental
approvals, and that the project can co-exist with recreation/tourism.
Green Power - A number of speakers stated support for the project on the basis that
power was needed in the province, and that IPP's provide clean, renewable energy and should be
American Whitewater has issued past action alerts on this proposal and worked with local
volunteers to help raise the visibility of this important issue:
More information on the Ashlu
with some photos at Paddleguides.com .
Photo of Fifty-Fifty by Erik Schertzl