Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Hydro Project Bypassing BC Enviro Assessment Process: Conservationists

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Hydro Project Bypassing BC Enviro Assessment Process: Conservationists

Article excerpt

Enviro groups take hydro project to court


VANCOUVER - A coalition of conservation groups was in B.C. Supreme Court on Wednesday, asking a judge to overturn a decision that allows a hydro-electric development in northeastern B.C. to proceed without an environmental assessment.

The Holmes River hydro project consists of 10 generation sites along a 40-kilometre stretch of the river near McBride, B.C., generating an estimated 76 megawatts of electricity.

The Watershed Watch Salmon Society and the David Suzuki Foundation say the large-scale project should, under provincial law, undergo an environmental assessment.

But the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office has permitted the proponent to file each of the 10 hydro stations to be located along tributaries to the river as separate, smaller-scale projects that do not require assessment.

"That means it hasn't been subject to the rigorous and transparent scientific review and public participation that it could have been," said Aaron Hill, an ecologist with the Watershed society.

"We think that's necessary to ensure that these types of projects don't do undue harm to important wilderness values in B.C."

There are a large number of run-of-river projects underway or proposed in B.C. currently, and the decision to allow Holmes Hydro Inc. to split the project up for application purposes is a dangerous precedent, he said.

"It is a cleaner form of energy than, say, fossil fuels but it's still a major industrial development that could do significant harm to fish and wildlife in an important watershed," he said outside B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver, where a hearing was scheduled for two days.

"It's important that when we do approve renewal energy projects we make sure that only the best ones go ahead and the best way to do that is through subjecting the projects to B.C.'s environmental assessment process. …

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