August 7-14, 2006

BC approves wind energy, run-of-river hydroelectric projects

British Columbia's Environmental Assessment Office has issued environmental assessment (EA) certificates for two green energy projects, the 300-megawatt (MW) wind energy project proposed by Dokie Wind Energy, of Victoria, and the 25-MW run-of-river Cascade Heritage hydroelectric project proposed by Vancouver-based Powerhouse Developments. Both proponents must still obtain the required provincial (and for the Cascade project, federal) permits and authorizations before their proejcts can proceed.

Dokie's $600-million wind energy project will be located in BC's Peace River region, on a number of high-elevation ridge tops in the Rocky Mountain foothills about 40 km west of Chetwynd and 40 km southwest of Hudson's Hope. The project EA concluded that the project would have no significant adverse environmental, health or social impacts on the surrounding area.

Even so, the EA certificate contains 22 environmental management plans and specifies 43 commitments that the proponent must fulfill over the various phases of the project. Some of the key commitments include:

- two years of post-construction monitoring for birds and bats;

- preparation of a surface erosion and sediment prevention plan prior to construction;

- appointment of an environmental co-ordinator to be responsible for implementing and monitoring all environmental programs; and

- continuing communication with the communities of Chetwynd, Hudson's Hope and Moberly Lake and with First Nations communities in the region, as well as local guide outfitters and trapping tenure holders.

Powerhouse Developments' Cascade Heritage power project triggered a screening level of review under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. Accordingly, the BC EA Office and the federal agencies harmonized the EA process, producing a joint assessment/screening report.

From the perspective of the federal and provincial agencies, the report concludes that no significant residual impacts are anticipated from the project. The review has also concluded that the proponent has adopted all reasonable impact management measures, including a complete redesign of the project to ensure that any potential impacts are minimized.

In addition, transboundary agencies such as the Washington State Department of Ecology have concluded that potential effects on their regulatory and programming interests have been addressed adequately.

The $24-million project would be situated on the Kettle River about 2.5 km south of Christina Lake. Powerhouse Developments has committed to providing approximately $1 million to enhance local tourism.

The provincial EA certificate incorporates more than 150 commitments made by the proponent, which will be carried out in the course of the project. These include a wide range of mitigation, monitoring and compensation measures to protect: water quality; fish and wildlife, including threatened and endangered species; heritage sites, including places of special significance to First Nations; and aesthetic values in the Cascade Canyon and falls area and related local tourism, including measures to minimize disruption during construction.

In addition to the provincial EA certificate, the project will require federal-level decisions by Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Transport Canada, as well as other necessary permits and authorizations from both levels of government. The project development is also subject to prior placement of a water reserve on the Kettle River in order to preserve future water allocation options.

More information is available on the EA Office Web site, www.eao.gov.bc.ca.

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