BC Hydro pulls plug on Klinaklini River power project

Environment Minister had opposed changing boundaries of nature conservancy to facilitate proposal

Justine Hunter
Globe and Mail
May. 06, 2010

A proposed $2.5-billion run-of-river project on the Klinaklini River is dead, dropped from BC Hydro’s roster for clean-power contracts one day after Environment Minister Barry Penner vowed to oppose the scheme.

The Kleana power project would have generated two-thirds as much energy as the massive Site C dam that the provincial government has approved on the Peace River.

Kleana’s president said the project could be built with a fraction of the ecological footprint of Site C, but Mr. Penner said it threatened protected wetlands, fish-bearing streams, old-growth forest and grizzly-bear habitat.

The project would have required a weir, or dam, as high as 30 metres. The proposal was in the hands of BC Hydro, an arm’s-length Crown corporation. But Mr. Penner had some leverage: The proposal required his approval to change the boundaries of a nature conservancy that is part of what is known as the Great Bear Rainforest, a protected area developed after a decade of consultation with environmentalists.

“I will not be recommending that the boundaries of the Upper Klinaklini conservancy beee amended in order to facilitate this project,” Mr. Penner told the legislature on Wednesday.

On Thursday, BC Hydro approved two new electricity purchase agreements under its Clean Power Call. Notably absent was the Kleana power project, and an official confirmed it is no longer under consideration.

“We are delighted,” said Vicky Husband, of the Watershed Watch Salmon Society. The run of the river project was so large, she said, it shouldn’t be measured as green energy.

“This was not a project that should have ever been considered,” she added.

Claire Trevena, the New Democratic Party MLA for North Island, applauded Mr. Penner’s decision.

“It would have meant the mass industrialization of the Klinaklini River,” she said. “The fact that the minister has now said that it won’t be going ahead is great news for that river - but we still have lots of projects that are of great concern in the rush for private power.”

Under the Clean Energy Act introduced in the legislature last week, BC Hydro will not be allowed to even entertain proposals for power projects if they fall within a park or conservancy. But the legislation is not yet in force, and groups such as Ms. Husband’s were concerned that the Kleana project could be approved in the interim.

Mr. Penner said BC Hydro should have understood the government’s intent, however, when it tabled that provision. “It’s pretty clear direction to BC Hydro, to put something in a statute,” he said in an interview.

Alexander Eunall, president of Kleana, could not be reached Thursday. But in an earlier interview, he defended the project as far cleaner than the proposed Site C dam, which has been sent for an environmental assessment.

“It is the cleanest kilowatt hours produced anywhere in British Columbia,” he said. Asked whether the new Clean Energy Act would effectively kill his proposal, he suggested the proposal could still be amended. “We will adapt and adjust and move forward.”

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/british-columbia/bc-hydro-pulls-plug-on-klinaklini-river-power-project/article1559707/