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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Save Navigation on Skookum Creek

On December 4 it was announced that Skookum Creek is being assessed under the Navigable Waters Protection Program in the permitting process for the construction of an IPP. We can have a say in maintaining the recreational value of this creek if the project goes ahead, but you have to write an email with your comments. This isn’t the forum to stop the project, it’s the forum to help keep the river navigable. If you don’t comment there’s the real possibility of losing Skookum as a kayaking resource for ever if the project happens.

Here’s what to do:

Send your email to Brent Magee - – he’s the NWP Officer handling the file.

Here’s what I recommend to say:

1. Building a dam does not create better kayaking conditions – the river and flow will be permanently altered to the point that it will be unnavigable for most of the year.
2.There must be recreational whitewater releases provided by the company to account for the dewatering of the creek during its historical season of navigation.
3.There must be real time gauge information publically available to account for the drastic change in the season when the creek will flow.
4.Access to the creek via the existing and to-be-constructed roads must stay open during and after the construction period.
5.“Enhancements” to the Mamquam River do not mitigate the loss of recreational use on Skookum Creek itself.

At the very least, copy and paste that list with a sentence or two and email it to the address above and if you’ve run it, say the dates you did so. Elaborate and add more if you can. It will go a long way towards keeping Skookum Creek runnable. The deadline in January 4, 2011.

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If you want some more details, keep reading.

The IPP on Skookum Creek is under the threshold for undergoing a BC Environmental Assessment, but it still has to be granted permits to go ahead. As there’s a record of recreational use, Navigable Waters have to issue a permit ensuring the dewatering of the creek will be appropriately mitigated. They are the people that dictate things like gauges and recreational releases to the company, which are legally binding once in the permit but they have an incomplete picture of use and what mitigation factors will really make a difference. Comments will make a difference.

I think we all agree that damming rivers rarely has a positive effect on river use. This IPP proposes to divert 10 cms from Skookum Creek – Skookum is a small creek and it is likely for the majority of the summer it will be left dry. Runnable flows will be reduced to times of peak snowmelt or rain events, making it much more difficult to guess levels, something that is already hard to do. I would imagine the situation on Skookum will be similar to Rutherford (it’s never runnable any more) once a dam is in place.

I feel, short of stopping the project from going ahead, releases and gauges are the only way to mitigate this loss. In a conversation with the power company it was made clear these things will never be handed over voluntarily as they both cost money, hence having it engrained in the NWPP permit is the only way they’re going to happen.

The second major issue is access. Vastly improved roads are going to open up access far up the Skookum valley (the intake is proposed to be at least 5 km above the confluence with the Mamquam). As the project butts up against the boundary of Garibaldi Park I was told, again by the power company, that access via the new roads will be limited to keep motorized vehicles from gaining easy access to the park. I think this means there will be a gate at the bottom of the road, and despite new roads we are no further ahead in having better access – in fact, what we can drive now with a 4x4 we probably won’t be able to use at all.

Simply put, the power company seeks to take away everything and leave nothing for recreational use.

If you send in your comments, you’re helping to stop this from happening.

One of the iconic waterfalls on Skookum Creek.

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