Trail Wildlife Association opposes permits

Greater Trail group voices objection to construction of another hydroelectric plant

The Trail Wildlife Association is opposing an application to obtain investigative permits for the construction of another hydroelectric plant on the Columbia River north of Trail.

Citing increasingly scarce social and environmental values, construction of a 275-megawatt run-of-river plant by the Murphy Creek Power Corporation (MCPC) on the Columbia River near Murphy Creek would “irrevocably debase those values,” wrote Trail Wildlife Association (TWA) president Terry Hanik in a letter to the minister of Forest, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, Steve Thomson.

“We object to any part of the process that might result in the project’s realization,” he wrote. “The river corridor to be impacted by dam construction by the Murphy Creek project provides habitat for trophy sized rainbow trout that provide thousands of angler days per year for local and international fishers alike.”

The section of the Columbia River affected near Oasis also provides habitat for the white sturgeon, listed under the Canadian Species at Risk Act, Hanik said.

The investigative licence that Murphy Creek Power Corporation applied for in June would allow the company access to the land to conduct the investigative studies required to progress to the next stage of the application process.

The investigative licence is not an approval to proceed with the waterpower project or to proceed with any infrastructure on the lands.

According to the ministry’s website, “no decisions have been made for this application at this time.”

But Hanik is not sitting idle as he has begun a campaign to have the process pre-empted, writing letters to both federal and provincial ministries, local politicians, municipal councils and the premier.

He has pointed to the project as in violation of six federal government statutes, including the Fisheries Act (serious harm to habitat), the Species at Risk Act (critical habitat for recovery of the white sturgeon) and the 1909 Canada U.S. Boundary Waters Treaty.

The river corridor potentially impacted by the Murphy Creek project is a component of a transboundary free-flowing river running south from the Hugh Keenleyside Dam near Castlegar, to the head of the Grand Coulee reservoir in Washington State.

“This stretch is the only remaining easily accessible undammed portion of the Columbia River,” Hanik said.

It is a natural storage for the environmental and social values that were “degraded” by dam construction throughout the Columbia River basin, he added.

The location of the project could be Murphy Creek on the Columbia River, approximately 3.2 kilometres upstream from Trail. The site is about 35 km. downstream of the Keenlyside Dam on the Columbia River, and 25 km. downstream of the Brilliant Dam on the Kootenay River.

It will be primarily a run-of-river plant, with a small head pond to regulate flows. The reservoir surface area at normal operating level (424 metres) will be around 1,300 hectares.

Transmission lines will likely connect the plant to the B.C. Hydro substation at Selkirk, and also possibly to a “potential major customer,” read the Murphy Creek investigative plan template submitted to the province.

This isn’t the first time the company has tried to get approval for investigation of the project. In November, 2003 Murphy Creek Power submitted an application for water licence, with the first application filed in April, 1989.

No timeline was given by the province on approval for the investigative permit.