Image By ENR Art Dept.

Now that the British Columbia government has given the go-ahead to build three run-of-river generating stations and a 45-mile transmission line in the Upper Lillooet River Valley, the winning joint-venture and engineering teams are working through the 37 conditions that come with the approval.

The $420-million project will proceed only if the developer, Creek Power Inc., maintains minimum in-stream flow requirements and monitors temperature and ice conditions for the life of the 230-KW project, government officials say.

The Creek Power JV is two-thirds owned by Innergex Renewable Energy and one-third owned by Ledcor Power Group, according to Innergex, the project's managing partner.

The developer says the plan includes three clean-energy generation facilities, each located in the Pemberton Valley: the 74-MW Upper Lillooet River Hydroelectric Facility; the 23-MW Boulder (Pebble) Creek Hydroelectric Facility and the 16-MW North Creek Hydroelectric Facility. The developer says the facilities will be master-planned as a single hydroelectric project with a combined capacity of 121 MW.

According to Innergex, each hydroelectric facility will divert partial flows from its respective river and creeks through an intake structure, which will drive directly into a tunnel or penstock to the turbines and generating equipment, located in a powerhouse. Then, the water will be returned its river or creek.

Conservationists are raising alarms over the size of the project, claiming the provision of more than twice the amount of power needed for the three facilities lays the groundwork for additional power projects in a highly sensitive wildlife habitat. Of particular concern to the director of Northwest Conservation, Joe Scott, is the impact on the recovering grizzly-bear population. "If they move forward on this project, it will facilitate other projects that will create cumulative impacts on grizzly bears that are not being addressed or spoken about by government," he says.

British Columbia's Ministry of the Environment has acknowledged the transmission line has the ability to handle additional transmission capacity but says no other projects have been approved or applications received to develop more hydroelectric facilities.

"Creek Power Inc. has informed the Environmental Assessment Office that the 230-kV line was selected due to efficiencies with electricity transmission and the point of interconnection," the ministry said in a statement. Going further, the ministry agreed the slowly increasing numbers of grizzly bears could be hampered by additional development.