Opponents of a proposed independent power project in the remote Incomappleux Valley are mounting a last-minute campaign to gather input from opponents of the project.
Proponent TransAlta Corporation is proposing to build a 45-MW independent power project in the valley, and have applied for an investigative licence to conduct preliminary geological and environmental studies. Public comment on the investigative licence runs out at midnight, Sept. 20.
West Kootenay EcoSociety executive director David Reid says their organization only recently discovered the application. Their opposition to the project focuses on its location in a remote valley that contains a rare ancient rainforest that has been spared from logging activity. The Incomappleux Valley is located about 40 kilometres southeast of Revelstoke and is adjacent to Glacier National Park.
“For our members, and I think for a lot of people in our region, the general attitude about the Incomappleux is hands off an ecological treasure that’s really the last of that kind of super-ancient forest that is left in our region,” Reid said. “Even to consider a study there, opening the door for a potential future application, is out of the question.”
The plan calls for a 45 MW power plant and 75 kilometres of transmission line running down the valley before hooking into existing lines in the vicinity of Beaton. In their application, TransAlta lists the project’s size as totalling 17,044 hectares, including the transmission line.
TransAlta submitted their investigative licence application in late July, but the proposal has been known for many years under previous proponent Galena Bay Power Corporation.
Changes to the way independent power projects are handled by the provincial bureaucracy means proponents are now required to actively develop their projects, including applying for investigative licences that permit on-the-ground work.
TransAlta’s application to the province indicates this work will include fish habitat assessments, water quality testing, silviculture studies and wildlife surveys. They’ll also bring in drilling equipment for geotechnical studies. This work will require clearing to provide access for the equipment.
Reid said the EcoSociety is trying to raise concern now because of the deadline for comment. “The urgency is the comment deadline is [Sept. 20] at midnight,” he said. “It’s pretty hard to see the environmental logic of putting in an IPP in such a remote and valuable area.”
Reid said they’d monitor the results of the application process and determine next steps. “A lot would depend on the government’s response,” he said.
Revelstoke-based North Columbia Environmental Society spokesperson Michael Watson heads a committee that explores IPP projects in the region.
The focus on this project — one of dozens of proposals in the region — is the unique environment of the Incomappleux Valley.
“Everyone actually knows the sensitivity of the area,” Watson told the Times Review. “It is quite a large project.”
Unlike other smaller IPP proponents, Watson believes field work is more likely to happen. “TransAlta is a big player,” he said. “They can go in and do their studies. They have the cash flow.”
Watson also said putting an IPP in the area would run counter to efforts to have the Incomappleux designated as a park or protected area.
A spokesperson from TransAlta was not immediately available for comment. A TransAlta spokesperson said the company would work to find a spokesperson who could comment on the project.