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Cascade power project gets extension on environmental assessment

The Cascade Power Project at Christina Lake could still be built by 2016 after the Ministry of Environment extended their environmental assessment permit despite opposition from the Regional District of the Kootenay Boundary (RDKB).  
 
“The extension was because we have been unable to get an electricity purchase agreement with B.C. Hydro in their last call,” said Paul Adams, independent consultant for Sea Breeze Power Corp. who is the lead on the project. “We wouldn’t be able to develop the project within the time allotted in the environmental assessment permit.”
 
Originally approved in 2006, the permit has a one time only extension option that came due on Aug. 3. Sea Breeze, the licencee for the water rights on the Kettle River for the power project at the Cascade Falls area, exercised their option to renew the permit and received news that it was approved just this week, said Adams.
 
The RDKB opposed the extension of this permit, and the area C Director, Grace McGregor said that with the Kettle River study underway combined with the river being named the number one endangered river in B.C. last fall.
 
“This power project may not even have enough water at the end of the day and it doesn’t hire anybody,” McGregor commented. “There’s a whole long list of reasons why not to do it. So we held fast with our belief that we put in to begin with: that we were against that project.”
 
With the extension on the permit, Sea Breeze must substantially begin construction of their project before Aug. 3 of 2016 otherwise they will lose the permit, Adams explained. But in order to proceed, they need to have a contract with B.C. Hydro to provide power. Sea Breeze put in two proposals in Hydro’s last call for power and was successful with one project on Vancouver Island for wind power. The Cascade project was not approved at the time and has been dormant since.
 
“It depends on B.C. Hydro’s energy needs and whether they go for another call for power, right now they don’t have one in the planning,” added Adams.
 
Adams said in order for the project to proceed Sea Breeze will need to build up community support before any construction would start. Once built the project would consist of a weir built on the top of Cascade Falls area siphoning water off through a tunnel and down to the powerhouse at the base of the falls. The power would be generated year-round with the bulk of the power sourced in the spring and early summer.
 
“The designation as an endangered river doesn’t materially affect the environmental assessment permit. But it certainly affects relations in the community,” Adams added. “If the project were to proceed, Sea Breeze would have to build up again the community involvement needed to get the project to move ahead.”
 
McGregor disagreed with the impact assessment. The Christina Lake community has been opposing this project from its beginning.
 

“The Kettle River study makes it even more important not to put anything on that river right now,” McGregor said. “That would take the last recorded water licence on there. There is no way that any other power project could ever operate. It might even threaten the ability to do water reserves. It’s a bigger issue than most people realize. Water’s going to be the big issue and we need to protect what we have.”