Protecting the Ashlu (BC)

To hear the real story of the Ashlu check out Bryan Smith's powerful documentary, 49 MW (Watch the Film)

Threats to the Ashlu appear to be realized with construction underway for a massive 49 MW hydropower project on one of British Columbia's most beautiful rivers. American Whitewater has previously posted action alerts for this whitewater gem that represents an irreplaceable whitewater resource for paddlers from across North America and around the globe. The creek is a tributary of the Squamish River and located off the Sea to Sky Highway between Vancouver and Whistler. The river is unique in that it provides whitewater opportunities for a wide range of skill levels from beginners all the way to the world's top experts. Of interest to paddlers lamenting the low water that tends to limit whitewater opportunities throughout the region in late summer, is the fact that Ashlu typically comes into an ideal range through the month of August. In addition the creek has served as a popular back drop for several paddling films and numerous photographs that have appeared in paddling magazines.

A study of whitewater resources in the Squamish Forest District, published in 2002 confirmed the fact that Ashlu Creek is among the “most highly valued” whitewater resources in the area. As part of this study, a survey of international paddlers confirmed that runs in the Sea to Sky corridor are world-class with key attributes that include the following: the number and diversity of runs that were available and accessible; the technical challenge of runs available; and the quantity of water available in these streams, reflecting both the lack of dams and the relatively late season timing (i.e. July, August) of streamflows associated with snow and glacial melt. The study further documented that additional draws of this area for international paddlers are the character and scenic quality of local streams, as well as the amenities and infrastructure most notably in the Whistler resort.

Sometimes referred to as “small hydro”, though 49 MW represents a massive industrial development on this river, projects like this one represent a continuing threat to rivers in the region. In 2004 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, but in early 2006 the developer did an end run around local interests by going directly to the BC Provincial government for special legislation that would exempt the project from local zoning requirements. The developer is now moving the project forward and even contends that kayaking opportunities will be “improved”. Sadly this comes at the cost of industrial development of another stream that has defined Southwest British Columbia as a world-class kayaking destination. We will continue to track issues on this project with our friends in BC.


The contacts below include staff and volunteers working on this project. Make sure you are logged in if you wish to join the group.

projects - Protecting the Ashlu (BC)

Title Name City
Shane Robinson Seattle WA Details...
Thomas O'Keefe Seattle WA Details...


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