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Special report from the road (June 26, 2009) by Gwen Barlee, National Policy Director with the Wilderness Committee:
I have very limited time at a computer, and will not have access to one until I am back in Vancouver but here goes:
Last night, the Wilderness Committee attended a public meeting on the contentious Glacier Howser private power project in the West Kootenays. The meeting was held in a gymnasium at J.V. Humphries School in Kaslo, a tiny town in BC’s Interior nestled in the green slopes of the Purcell Mountains.
When we pulled into town, we weren’t sure how many people would attend the open house put on by the BC Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) and the project’s proponent AXOR.
Holding the meeting in Kaslo was controversial because the EAO refused to have a meeting in Nelson, BC (Population 9,258) which is a more populated and centrally located Kootenay town. Many area residents felt the decision to hold the meeting in Kaslo was an attempt by the EAO and AXOR to keep the meeting small and manageable Lee-Ann Unger from the West Kootenay Eco-Society, a local organization which had worked hard to raise awareness about the event looked a little dejected. There were just a few cars sprinkled about, and several people milling around outside.
Gradually, though, people started to trickle into the parking lot: young families with children, kayakers from Nelson, concerned Kaslo residents, local BC Wildlife Federation members, loggers, fishers, hunters, hippies and business people.
People came with signs and petitions, and an urgent concern about the fate of Glacier Howser Creeks and the 600 other creeks and rivers in BC that have been staked by private power companies.
The crowd swelled to the point that people who couldn’t fit into the parking lot spilled onto the grass, up the hill and onto the street. And people still kept coming it was amazing! Then, just before the rally started, a cheer erupted from the crowd as three buses from Nelson pulled up.
The rally before the open house featured local politicians, First Nations, the Eco-Society, the Wilderness Committee, and hundreds of people who wanted to keep BC’s rivers wild and our power public.
At 7 PM, the official open house Question and Answer started. A long line of people wound around the school to get into the gym. It took almost half an hour to get everyone into the gym!
Soon every seat was taken and hundreds of people had to stand up in the aisles and sit on the floor to squeeze into the gym. An official count from an AXOR representative confirmed that over 1,100 attended more than the entire population of Kaslo!
For more than three hours, people voiced their opposition to the project, condemning the BC government’s rubber-stamp process and demanding that the environmentally destructive project be stopped. Damage to fish and endangered species habitat; the permanent diversion of water; weak environmental standards and a flawed environmental assessment process; and the loss of control of BC’s rivers and public power system dominated the meeting.
It’s time to raise your voice. You have until July to let the BC Environmental Assessment Office and Premier Campbell know how you feel about Glacier and Howser Creeks staying wild.
Premier Gordon Campbell,
Garry Alexander, Project Assessment Director
Environmental Assessment Office
PO Box 9426 Stn Prov Govt
Five points of concern:
1. The water diverted from the creeks is never returned to the original water bodies damaging instream health and downstream ecosystems.
2. The transmission corridor would cut through important old-growth management areas: areas of forest which are off-limits to the logging industry.
3. The project would negatively impact habitat for threatened and endangered species including grizzly bears, mountain goats and mountain caribou, and destroy the habitat of a genetically unique population of bull trout found only in the Glacier Howser watershed.
4. The project would include 16 km of tunnels large enough to drive a dump truck though, and would create a massive amount of waste rock material.
5. The environment throughout the region is under increasing pressure from 70 proposed private power project applications and other major developments like the nearby Glacier Howser Resort development.
As exciting and encouraging as meetings like Kaslo, the Upper Pitt and Bute Inlet are, it will take many others to ensure that our voices are heard, and our rivers are protected.
For more on our campaign check out our new website campaign page here.
Join the Wilderness Committee and tens of thousands of British Columbians in the fight to keep our rivers wild and our power public.
National Policy Coordinator, Wilderness Committee