The Columbia Shuswap Regional District has asked the province of B.C. to create a comprehensive framework for reviewing Independent Power Projects after the district was asked for feedback on a slew applications recently.
The CSRD has received 25 referrals from FrontCounter BC in recent months regarding private water power projects on various creeks and rivers throughout areas A and B of the regional district.
As the Times Review reported in August, a regulatory change resulted in dozens of power projects being re-filed with FrontCounter BC. Those applications have now landed on the desks of CSRD staff for comment.
The staff report recommended CSRD’s Board of Directors adopt a formal policy with regards to the applications.
“Given the potential cumulative impact of these projects, and the lack of CSRD policy to address such development, and the significant number of referral requests from the province, Development Services staff is seeking direction from the Board to assist in responding to these referrals,” wrote planner Jan Thingsted in his report.
The board unanimously approved a resolution asking that staff contact the Minister of the Environment and the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations “advising that it supports the implementation of a framework for assessing and managing the cumulative impacts social, economic and environmental values, of independent power projects, including run-of-river hydroelectric projects.”
The staff report indicates that under the Utilities Commission Act of 2006, local governments no longer have any authority over IPPs and that they are exempt from zoning regulations and development permits.
The Area B Official Community Plan Bylaw 850 supports small scale (up to 50 megawatt) IPPs. An update to the bylaw currently underway proposes to expand the policy so that any support for IPPs is “conditional upon rigorous environmental screening, cumulative impact assessment and public review.”
Loni Parker, the director for Area B, said the board passed similar resolutions in the past but were ignored by the province. She said existing policies left local people out of the loop and didn’t think the ministries had the capacities to conduct proper investigations given recent cutbacks.
“I’d like to see first of all a response back from the province to our request,” she said.
“Certainly we’re supporting an initiative that hopefully they’re undertaking in a timely fashion. And just some recognition these IPPs impact the local environment of the various jurisdictions in the province and they’re certainly going to take our interests into consideration.”