article photo 1

Progress Made in Protecting Ashlu (BC)

Posted: 10/05/2004
By: Thomas O'Keefe

At a meeting earlier this evening (5 Oct), the Ashlu District Council reversed last month's decision to support the Ashlu Hydro Project, and decided to formally oppose this project. This will not be the last we'll hear of this project, but it represents an important positive turn of events for the future of whitewater on the Ashlu.

The following update of the meeting in Squamish was provided by Stuart Smith:

Tonight, the District of Squamish lived up to its name as the Recreation Capital of Canada, and did the following things:

1) voted to revisit their past decision to support the proposed Ashlu power project

2) put forward a motion to remain neutral (that is, neither for nor against the project).

This motion was defeated

3) put forward a motion to oppose the project on the Ashlu until there has been a regional planning process to address energy projects.

This motion was amended to read simply:

That the District of Squamish oppose the proposed project on Ashlu Creek.

This motion PASSED

As was noted at the meeting, when the last motion was passed in support of the Ashlu project, not all of the council member's were in attendance. Tonight they were all in attendance.

THANK YOU to all of the people who came out in the rainy weather and those who wrote in to support the efforts. In the end the paddlers, local residents, and the others who were on the agenda to speak on this never even needed to do so. Council moved to oppose the project on its own. This now starts the dominos falling in the correct direction, and sends a message to the other reviewing agencies, that the project does not have support of local government.

If you didn't get a chance to write in, we need the Council's continued opposition to this project and additional letters in support of preserving the Ashlu for its recreational opportunities will help in this regard. If you haven't done so already, make your voice heard!

ACTION ALERT, posted 1 Oct 2004 prior to the meeting

The District of Squamish (DOS), self-named as the Recreation Capital of Canada, had a motion to oppose the Hydropower project on the Ashlu River, and their staff had put forward a recommendation to do so (read the report here), based on the overwhelming response in opposition to the project.

At the last DOS Council meeting held in September, with a couple of supporters of the motion to oppose the project absent, Council did a 180 degree flip-flop, and passed a motion to support the project.

Even though the DOS does not have a direct say in the project's approval, the DOS has 2 seats on the Squamish Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) board - and the SLRD is the best hope to stop the project. It is key that the DOS send a message to the SLRD, that they do not support this project.

The DOS actions sets the domino's falling the wrong way.

Action Items:

Local Paddlers

If you are from the Squamish area, local citizens who support preservation of the Ashlu River will gather for a public rally on Tuesday OCTOBER 5, at 6:30 PM at the Home Hardware Parking lot. Supporters of the river will walk through Squamish, to the Council Chambers, where the DOS Council will meet. There will be a presentation at the meeting by the residents in the area, and a request that DOS revisit their decision. This is a VITAL time to show up, in mass, to demonstrate that the DOS decision is an inappropriate allocation of a spectacular recreational and tourism destination, to industrial use. This will not involve sitting through yet another meeting, but will be an active way to show your support for the opposition to the project.

To get there: Enter downtown Squamish on Cleveland Avenue (the lights on Highway 99, at the McDonalds). Follow Cleveland through one set of lights, then to the second four-way stop. Home Hardware is on the right, at the second four-way stop sign (please contact Stuart Smith for additional details).

Paddlers from Out of Town

If you are a paddler from outside the Squamish area, it's important for you to write and identify the importance that you attach to this incredible river resource along with the contributions you make to the local economy. The Sea to Sky corridor has quickly emerged as one of the world's top creeking destinations and Squamish has choosen to identify itself as the Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada. Their website specifically states:

Squamish is "The Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada".  Whether your passion is hiking, climbing, mountain biking, horseback riding, windsurfing, bird watching, kayaking, fishing, golf, etc.  you will find top notch facilities here. 

Incredibly however the recent actions by the District Council would result in the loss of one of the most treasured whitewater resources of the region and clearly represent the loss of a top-notch whitewater destination. It's important to make this point to the councilmembers and note that the features of this river are specifically what define Squamish as a great outdoor recreation destination. Please take a few moments to write the Council before their meeting next week:

District of Squamish Contacts
Ian Sutherland (Squamish Mayor)

Raj Kahlon (Squamish Councillor)

Jeff Dawson (Squamish Councillor)

Dave Fenn (Squamish Councillor)

Sonja Lebans (Squamish Councillor)

Corrine Lonsdale (Squamish Councillor)

Ray Peters (Squamish Councillor)

For quick cut and paste:,,,,,,

Mailing Address
Squamish Municipal Hall
PO Box 310
Squamish, B.C.

Background and Additional Talking Points:

The Ashlu River is a spectacular whitewater resource with many different runs serving a wide range of skill levels, a long paddling season, and incredibly beautiful scenery (additional description of the river). Recently the river hosted a whitewater festival attracting over 200 participants.

As the popularity of creeking continues to grow, the reputation of the Sea to Sky corridor as a world-class creeking destination grows along with it; Squamish, BC, the Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada, is comparable to destinations such as Asheville, NC; the Sierras in CA; or the famous creeks of Corsica. It provides destination creeking; in other words, a place that attracts paddlers for 1 - 2 week trips. Among the creeks of the region, the reputation of Ashlu Creek continues to build and attracts more and more boaters to the area each year. It is one of the best known creeks of the region and has appeared in numerous kayaking films and print media. These individuals who travel to the region for the outdoor recreational opportunities that extend beyond just kayaking, and include other outdoor pursuits such as hiking and biking, make important contributions to the local economy and also come back as repeat visitors.

Ledcor, the company proposing to develop Ashlu for hydropower, has made the argument that the impacts to whitewater recreation will be minimal since their proposed diversion is along a section of the creek known as one of the most challenging. They further argue that since a greater total number of individuals have the skills to paddle the less challenging sections, no opportunities will actually be lost. The problems with these arguments are that they fail to recognize the fact that every year more paddlers have the skills and equipment to safely paddle the more challenging sections, and those who do seek the most challenging runs are the most enthusiastic ambassadors for the region who in turn attract new paddlers to the Sea to Sky corridor. While the section above the diversion may continue to provide great intermediate paddling for local paddlers, loss or artificial modification of the most challenging sections, including the Mine Run and Commitment Canyon, would surely diminish the area as a world-class destination. It would be as if we blasted the tops off all the tallest peaks in the Himalayas and then said that it doesn't matter since more people have the ability to hike throughout the foothills. Even intermediate paddlers enjoy the opportunity to peer into a canyon they may never paddle and stand in awe of the power of the river (as provided by the view from the Mile 25 Bridge on the Ashlu), and this attracts those who may end up running an easier section upstream.

Some things that make the Ashlu a spectacular creek worth saving as it is:

  • easy road access to a number of spectacular paddling runs
  • an incredibly long season
  • varied opportunities for various skill levels
  • there are easy intermediate runs
  • there are challenging more difficult runs
  • this is a place you can paddle at any time
  • the Ashlu has beautiful clear water
  • amazing bedrock exposures, and incredible canyons
  • aesthetics that are unmatched by any stream in this area
  • paddling reaches that are entirely runnable
  • short portages for those that wish to do the runs without doing the hardest drops
  • fantastic well-defined features
  • easy access off paved roads
  • a world-class paddling destination
  • that you do not want more power lines in the Elaho/Squamish Valley's
  • that YOU DO NOT WANT ANOTHER PLAY PARK like the Rutherford
  • that YOU want a free flowing river

To make your point to local council, also emphasize:

  • you chose this area because it is the Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada - and the Ashlu is a supporting player in the town of Squamish claiming this
  • that local business depends on recreational draws to this area
  • that you come to this area to recreate because of the opportunities that streams such as the Ashlu offer

Ashlu Creek photo by David Vican,

Associated Projects

Protecting the Ashlu (BC)

A hydropower project is now being constructed on this wonderful creek in Southwest British Columbia.

Join AW and support river stewardship nationwide!