FOBI’s Recommendations for 2011 Endangered Rivers List

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Watershed Watch Senior Advisory, Vicky Husband, joined with the Friends of Bute Inlet (FOBI) to submit recommendations for the Outdoor Recreation Council’s list of Endangered Rivers for 2011:

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On behalf of the Friends of Bute Inlet (FOBI), please accept the following nominations for the ORC Endangered Rivers list.

Bute Inlet’s major rivers and tributaries are among the most productive watersheds remaining in the world, with healthy and diverse anadromous fish populations and a wilderness environment that also supports an abundance of terrestrial wildlife. They are also highly vulnerable.

Plutonic Power (presently selling/merging with Magma Energy; soon to be renamed Alterra Power) and General Electric have plans for the largest private hydroelectric development in Canadian history at Bute Inlet. The Bute drainages presently threatened include the Homathko River, with seven tributaries proposed for diversion, including Coola Creek, Scar Creek, Whitemantle Creek, Brew Creek, Jewakwa River, Heakamie River, and Gargoyle Creek; the Southgate River, with six diversions proposed at Southgate River 1, Allaire River, Southgate River 2, Raleigh Creek, Icewall Creek, and Elliot River. The Orford River drainage will have river diversions at the North Orford, East Orford and Algard Rivers; and the Bear River (southwest of Homathko drainage) is also planned for diversion.

Bute Inlet’s ecosystems will be changed forever if seventeen wilderness rivers are dammed with up to 95% of their flow diverted into 88 km of pipelines, along with developments that include 144 km industrial roads, 110 bridges, 16 powerhouses, substations, and 443 km of high voltage transmission lines. The cumulative impacts include damage to precious habitat for threatened wildlife, including grizzly bear, mountain goat, marbled murrelets, tailed frogs, eulachon, all five species of pacific salmon and other fish, including significant populations of cutthroat, dolly varden and bull trout, and many other species. Impacts will also prevent public access and dramatically reduce the world-class recreation values of BC’s highest mountains, wild glacial rivers and ocean.

Our second nomination is at Toba Inlet, where the Upper Toba River and Jimmie Creek are threatened by an IPP development known as the Upper Toba Project.

These rivers are above the Plutonic/GE IPP East Toba & Montrose river diversions project that commenced operations in 2010. There is a critical lack of information about the East Toba & Montrose developments due to remoteness and minimal/infrequent reporting requirements. During construction, DFO took issue with significant impact-incidents, and there are ongoing environmental concerns and technological challenges. Reliable “secondhand-info” reports both East Toba and Montrose plants have been non-operational for several months due to winter freeze-up; furthermore, the runner blade at Montrose turbine is already badly damaged by glacial silt and needs to be replaced. Possible and likely future problems include impacts to fish and habitat from release of glacial silt buildup at the wiers. Cumulative impacts are unknown!

We are adding Upper Toba River and Jimmie Creek to our “critically endangered” list because Plutonic and GE are poised to commence development. They have obtained a BC environmental certificate and also a BC Hydro energy purchase agreement. High development costs had put this project on hold, but the sale/merger of Plutonic and Magma Energy is designed to produce required development capital.

Upper Toba River and Jimmie Creek are significant habitat for spawning coho. In project guidelines, the DFO set Instream Flow Requirements (IFRs) that Plutonic strongly contested as “too high” and said those IFRs made the project “uneconomical”. Two surprising events followed: DFO refused to negotiate the IFRs, and Plutonic agreed to the “uneconomical” flow requirements. This raises real concerns about whether the project is economically viable with the current flow requirements; as well as the possibility that financial pressures could (sometime later) lead to instream flow levels being lowered below the recommended standards.

FOBI asserts that The East Toba Montrose should prove its environmental claims (and economic benefits) for at least a decade before additional developments are allowed in the Toba Valley. Also noteworthy: completion of the Upper Toba project makes adjacent Bute Inlet development more viable. Stopping the Upper Toba project also helps save Bute!

British Columbia citizens are responsible for protecting some of the world’s last few truly wild and productive rivers. We appreciate your opportunity to draw attention to threatened rivers, and we thank Outdoor Recreation Council for any attention that helps prevent damaging industrial developments to the wilderness rivers we have nominated.

Respectfully submitted for Friends of Bute Inlet by:

Lannie Keller
Laurie Wood
Vicky Husband, Order of BC & Order of Canada

 

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