Beaver River Hydroelectric Projects: Ventego, Cupola and Alder Creeks- Selkirk Power

Grizzly Bear, Wolverine, Westslope Cuttroat Trout, Olive-sided Flycathers and Bull Trout are some of the sensitive federally listed at-risk species that are being threatened by Selkirk Power's proposed developments.
 
Early winter old-growth habitat for mountain caribou is also being threatened by proposed road building development and associated logging activities.
 
Selkirk Power is looking to construct $130 million, 45MW project on Ventego, Alder and Cupola Creeks, known collectively as the Beaver River Hydroelectric Project.  Both Alder and Ventego Creek are un-roaded, ecologically intact wilderness drainages that lie on the edge of Glacier National Park and that used to be park of the Hamber Provincial Park system.
 

This project is not located wisely.  Adding roads, power lines, human activity and three river diversions will significantly compromise an existing wilderness refuge area for species at risk.  While run-of-river power projects can be environmentally sustainable, their green status becomes questionable when entire landscapes are affected by new power lines, roads and water diversions.

 

If you  wish to voice your concern, call or email Grant Walton with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations: phone: (250) 365-8657.

Grant Walton RPF
Major Projects Coordinator, Kootenay Boundary Region
Resource Managment Coordination Division
Authorizations and First Nations Consultation Branch
Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations
 
You can also CALL THE MINISTER OF FORESTS, LANDS AND NATURAL RESOUCE OPERATIONS, Steve Thomson: (250) 356- 6611
 
While the public is not currently asked to approve or reject projects (or to provide much input at all), the amount of public attention a project receives does have bearing on how well environmental concerns are addressed. Public input is critical!
 

What does Selkirk Power want to do exactly?

  • Build at least 9 kms of new roads into pristine old-growth drainages.  Upgrade 10kms of pre-existing forestry roads from the mid-90's.
  • Three diversion weirs/intakes (or dams) on three creeks, 2 of which are ecologically-intact, roadless watersheds.
  • Head ponds behind each dam, to be dug out with heavy machinery on each creek.
  • 17 kms of buried penstock (large pipes), requiring a "significant" amount of blasting/explosives.
  • 19 kms of stream reaches to be diverted into penstock (of which 13km are bearing at-risk fish species).
  • Construction of penstocks has potential to lead to acid rock drainage that may be toxic to all aquatic life.
  • Cofferdams to be constructed to allow a dry environment for the construction project.  Construction period is 2 years.
  • Permanent and temporary "spoil sites" created for waste materials, such as bedrock from blasting.
  • Up to 90% of water flow to be diverted.
  • 2 powerhouses to be built.
  • 52 kms of transmission lines.
  • Only 2-4 permanent jobs would be created.
  • Little to no power will be produced during the winter months, due to low water flow, when BC actually needs the energy.

Designed Capacity:

  • Ventego Creek: 25.5 MW, 8.8 km creek diversion.
  • Alder Creek: 2.5 MW, 2.5 km creek diversion.
  • Cupola Creek: 16.0 MW, 6.6 km creek diversion.

This is "green energy"?

 
 
Click on these links for recent related articles and presentation:
On May 31, 2011, the Beaver River projects were entered into a Canadian Environmental Assessment (CEA) Screening Level Assesment.

 
 
BACKGROUND ON VENTEGO CREEK
 
Ventego Creek is an ecologically-intact, un-roaded and un-logged wilderness that extends for about 20kms.  In July 2010, 3 Wildsight and Council of Canadians (Golden Chapter) hiked through this valley to photo-document the area.  The hope was that if people saw how remote, ecologically intact and unique this drainage was, that it would make people more empowered to protect it.  All pictures featured here were taken on the rugged and challenging 4-day adventure down the Ventego Watershed. 
 
Encountered along the way were bear daybeds, a bear rub tree, bear scat, moose scat and other ungulate scat.  In the unique subalpine wetlands located in the middle of the drainage, which stretch for 5.6kms, we saw Columbian spotted frogs, osprey, extensive ungulate sign, waterfowl, varied thrush, marsh wren, and heard other unidentified species of bird.  The rarity of a sub-alpine wetland such as this is unknown.  
 
Ventego Creek is fed is by glaciers and multiple additional creeks.  Towering waterfalls feed the main waterway. The valley is steep, rugged and narrow, which makes the creek a desirable location for hydro-power production.
 
 
What does Selkirk Power want to do:
 
Selkirk Power has been awarded energy purchase agreements (EPA) secured from BC Hydro. This gives their financial investors some form of security. Selkirk Power has yet to secure any land tenure for construction or water licenses for water diversion.
 
Selkirk Power is looking to build 8.8kms of new road into Ventego Creek.  They plan to build new transmission lines (40 m wide corridor, Beaver River to Golden). Selkirk Power claims there will be no separate consultation process for the construction of power lines as BCTC/ BC Hydro and the Energy Minister have claimed. Selkirk Power plans to divert a 6km stretch of creek in each of Cupola and Ventego Creeks. Up to 90% of the water is expected to be diverted into a penstock, or pipe.  This penstock is to be buried.  New road building, along with burying the penstock will require a significant amount of blasting. A cofferdam will be constructed to allow a dry environment for construction of the project. A deflection burm will be constructed to protect the penstock. Permanent and temporary “spoil sites” will be created for waste materials created during construction and permanent spoil sites will be re-vegetated.  
 
Selkirk Power also plans to construct a head pond in Ventego Creek located at the intake/weir structures, which would be about 1 hectare in size and 2m deep.  This is to be dug out with heavy machinery.  Selkirk Power claims that this head pond won’t affect the Ventego wetlands, which are located at the edge of the proposed intake location. These claims are questionable are require a full hydrological review. 
There are between 1000 - 2800 blue-listed, genetically pure, west slope cutthroat trout in Cupola Creek and a population living in lower Ventego.  There are also blu-listed Bull Trout in both Cupola and Ventego, as well as Brook trout.  Selkirk Power said that there are several other species of fish in these creeks as well.  Learn about Selkirk Power’s risky trout translocation in the background information listed below. 
 
There would be a total of 44 Megawatts of power produced from Ventego and Cupola Creeks. 2-4 permanent jobs would be created.
 
If you have concerns, please made your voice heard now.
 
 
More Background

There are 24 creeks and rivers located in the backcountry found north of Golden that have proposals to have micro-hydro, independent power producer (IPPs) projects built on them.  Selkirk Power Company Limited (based out of Nelson, BC) has 8 of these 24 water license applications.  Two of Selkirk Power’s proposals have made it further along than any other run-of-river slated to be developed in the Kootenay/Columbia Region.  These two projects are set to occur on Ventego, Alder and Cupola Creeks, located just outside Glacier National Park. Ventego and Cupola used to be located with the Hamber Provincial Park, before its boundaries were significantly reduced in 1961 to accommodate for Mica dam and forestry practices.
 
Selkirk Power’s proposed projects on Ventego and Cupola Creeks are threatening native stocks of “at risk” fish species. Fish inventory work conducted by biologists hired by Selkirk Power has concluded that there are several species of fish present, including federally-listed as threatened (blue-listed), Bull Trout and Westslope Cutthroat Trout in Ventego and Cupola Creeks.
 
In order to compensate for anticipated impacts from a proposed 6km water diversion in Cupola, 50 individuals from the rare trout population of westslope cutthroat trout were removed and then transferred (or translocated) into the previously fishless reaches of a unique wetland area located in the sub alpine of Ventego Creek. This was performed in the fall of 2009. In a biological report from September 4, 2009, prepared for Selkirk Power, it is stated that “If the initial transfer [of WCT] is successful then a subsequent application to transfer an additional 200 adults or sub-adults will be submitted.” Selkirk Power now says that the success of the first translocation will not be known for 3-4 years. However, in August 2010, Selkirk Power asked government, and was subsequently grated, another translocation permit before they were able to determine if the first one was successful or not.  Thankfully, Selkirk Power says that they are now halting this second translocation due to public and first nations (Ktunaxa) opposition.  Please see the press release here.
 
Other mitigation measures are now being considered by Selkirk Power, but thus far they have not been public information.

The introduction of a predatory trout species into the unique Ventego wetlands is likely to have a profoundly negative impact on the native amphibian population.  Previous to this trout introduction, there were no predatory fish in the Ventego wetlands.  There are 7 species of amphibian that breed in the Columbia Forest District.  According to a 1-day inventory conducted for Selkirk Power by team of Kootenay biologists; four of these species have the potential to occur in the wetlands of Ventego.  A large portion of these amphibians could become fish food if the translocation is successful, upsetting the natural balance.
 
The trout translocation also presents great potential to introduce an amphibian killing fungus into the Ventego wetland ecosystem. During a pre-translocation inventory, this fungus (known as chytrid), was detected in Cupola frogs but was not present in the upper Ventego frog population.  In order to compensate for the negative impacts associated with introducing this fungus into the wetlands (fish can be a vector of the fungus), a fish disinfection process took place to lower risks.  However, this disinfection process does not take away all of the risk of transmitting the fungus, but risks were deemed to be “acceptably low.” This chytrid fungus is linked to the decline in over a third of the world’s amphibian population.
 
The Ventego subalpine wetland ecosystem appears to be unique, but no surveys have been done to learn how rare this system is.  It would be good to determine just how unique these wetlands actually are in our region before any negative effects are implemented upon them. But in any case, all wetlands are facing severe threats worldwide. In addition, amphibians are suffering large global declines.
 
Why try to move a population of blue listed trout that has been naturally thriving in Cupola and Ventego Creeks for up to 10,000 years?   The hydro development is bound to negatively effect these fish populations, we well as other species at risk, therefore Wildsight feels that it should not go forward and Selkirk Power should not be approved to divert water from a 6kms stretch of creek that houses this native pure strain WCT population.  
 
Consider the cumulative environmental impacts if all the construction activities, blasting, road building, damming, transmission line development, waste piles and water diversion on the aquatic habitats were approved.  
 
There are 24 water license applications for run of river projects in the region northwest of Golden and hundreds more in the province. These projects lack a thorough environmental and public review. Government ministries are understaffed and pressured to move approvals forward. Without a strong public voice, wild rivers and wildlife will be sacrificed. Currently, we appear to be trading our pristine watersheds and threatened species for power.  Is this in our best interests?
 

Ventego Wild, by Rachel Darvill
 
No Project left behind by James Knoop

 

Ventego Creek
The Ventego Wetlands
Location of Ventego, Cupola, Alder in relation to Golden and Glacier NP.
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