Watershed Watch Letter to Editor: Hydro projects destroying ecosystems

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Watershed Watch Ecologist, Aaron Hill, responded to Jesse McClinton’s April 8, 2011 letter in the Lillooet News, with the following:

Hydro projects destroying ecosystems

Jesse McClinton is right that some so-called “run-of-river” hydro projects can have relatively small carbon footprints, but he’s dead wrong in suggesting they carry “virtually no environmental downside or risk”.

For example, the ecological impacts of the proposed Bute Inlet project would rival those of the proposed Site C dam on the Peace River. It would dam and divert up to 95% of the flow of 17 wilderness rivers into 88 km of pipelines, along with the construction of 144 km of industrial roads, 110 bridges, 16 powerhouses, substations, and 443 km of transmission lines. With over 300 additional rivers staked for hydro development in southwest BC, and dozens of projects already approved or operational, the cumulative impacts to fish, wildlife, and ecosystem health would be enormous.

Due to the BC government’s gutting of the Environmental Assessment Act in 2002, several “run-of-river” projects (those under 50 megawatts) have been approved without official environmental assessments. And a decade of successive cuts to the Ministry of Environment and other regulators has left government biologists unable to adequately review and monitor these projects.

Along with dramatic energy conservation, increased renewable energy use will be unavoidable in our carbon-constrained future. Unfortunately, here in BC, we are now on a course that is destroying the very ecosystems that we are attempting to save from the ravages of climate change. But it doesn’t have to be like this. Last year we co-authored Recommendations for Responsible Clean Electricity Development in BC. They were endorsed by 25 BC conservation organizations and can be read at www.watershed-watch.org.

Aaron Hill
Watershed Watch Salmon Society, Victoria, BC

Jesse McClinton’s original letter is here: BC run-of-river projects have minimal impact


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