Federal assessment says Beaver River IPP holds ‘unacceptable risk’


Concerns over fish habitat and species at risk puts project into stall-mode

Fisheries experts have weighed in on the Beaver River Hydropower Project, a cluster of run-of-river installations proposed for Ventego, Cupola and Alder creeks, located northwest of Golden and on the Glacier National Park boundary.

The group of fisheries and aquatic technical staff reviewed the proposal. The review team consisted of members of the Ktunaxa Nation Council – Canadian Columbia River Intertribal Fisheries Commission (KNC), the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (MFLNRO) and Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO). 

“The team was put together to review the fisheries impacts under the Canadian Environmental Assessment,” said Rachel Darvill, Wildsight’s Columbia Headwaters program manager. “It concluded that the project as proposed presents High-to-Unacceptable Risks to habitat and at-risk species.” 

Parks Canada also had its ecologists review the proposed development plans. In a separate document sent to Front Counter BC earlier this year, they noted multiple ecological threats.

Darvill said the Department of Fisheries and Oceans will not approve the hydropower development proposal in its current state.

The fisheries report came out this July. It states that the Independent Power Producer’s (IPP) development plan does not provide “...the information necessary to justify the potential impacts to the fish and fish habitat resources in both Ventego and Cupola Creeks.”

“Both bull trout and westslope cutthroat trout are blue-listed in British Columbia,” Darvill said. “Thankfully these species have been carefully monitored by government agencies in this case.”

 “We’ve been concerned about at-risk species in these watersheds since the Beaver River project was proposed, and hundreds of people have expressed opposition to the project over the last two years,” she said.

 “There are now calls coming from the Federal government to protect fish and fish habitat,” Darvill said. “This is great news and something worth celebrating.”

From the review team’s document:

“There continues to be a great deal of concern related to winter flows and the effects of winter flow diversion on overwintering habitat and icing conditions and stream connectivity.  Given the current level of understanding of the systems involved and the probable response of the biota to the proposed changes in instream flow the currently proposed Minimum Instream Flows are unacceptable from a fish and fish habitat stand-point.”

“This is good news for wild grizzlies, wolverines, westslope cutthroat trout and the other at-risk species that live in Ventego, Cupola and Alder watersheds,” Darvill said.  

In addition, the report stated that the introduction of westslope cutthroat trout to Ventego—a mitigation plan tested by the proponent in 2009—is “unfeasible due to its potential impacts on other eco-systemic values.”

“We are truly happy with this scientific outcome and glad to know that the introduction of fish into the Ventego Wetlands will also not continue as proposed,” said Darvill.

Darvill said although the report represents good news, it’s not necessarily the end of the Beaver River Hydropower Project. 

“We are unsure of what the proponent, Selkirk Power, plans to do at this time,” she said.

“If the proponent decides to continue with its project as proposed, then further studies must be conducted. Our understanding is that the DFO will request that Selkirk Power redesign/relocate the project to mitigate an unacceptable risk.

“We are thrilled the Federal government sought out scientific analysis and we hope that an official statement denying the project application will be forthcoming.”

Rachel Darvill, Columbia Headwaters Program Manager
250-344-4961 • Rachel@Wildsight.ca

Parks Canada Referral Response Feb 2011.pdf212.94 KB
FWZVJ CERT Beaver R IPP Aquatics Comments July 11 11.doc70.5 KB
Clarity on Beaver River Responding to Criticism.pdf304.11 KB