Politicians won't take stand on dam project

A document prepared by Fortis Inc. that shows the site of a proposed dam on the Similkameen River about 15 kilometres from Princeton. Local officials are reluctant to take a stand on the project just yet.  - Submitted
A document prepared by Fortis Inc. that shows the site of a proposed dam on the Similkameen River about 15 kilometres from Princeton. Local officials are reluctant to take a stand on the project just yet.
— image credit: Submitted

Some local politicians think it’s too early to take a position on a proposed hydroelectric dam near Princeton.

Instead, the board of the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen agreed Thursday to have one of its committees simply explore concerns raised by the project.

In January, Fortis Inc. was granted a two-year investigative use permit to study the feasibility of the dam on the Similkameen River near the Copper Mountain Mine site about 15 kilometres south of Princeton.

Company officials met with the RDOS board in February to provide basic information about the project, which corporate services manager Bob Gibney described then as “extremely economically fragile.”

Allan Patton, the RDOS director for rural Oliver, said this week he didn’t like what he heard.

“I wasn’t impressed, so I would like to further the conversation,” he told the board prior to requesting support for a motion to have the committee come up with a position on the dam.

Brad Hope, the director for rural Princeton, supported the move and told colleagues he’s “getting lots of questions from constituents and people who are concerned.”

“We’re talking about water storage, perhaps the sale of water. This is something we should be concerned about now,” he said.

“We’re talking about a 20-kilometre long reservoir in the valley above Princeton. We should be looking at this. It’s a big project.”

Others suggested the time for comment on the project would come later on in the process.

“This not a sleight-of-hand situation. There will be ample time, probably a two-year period, when the environmental joint assessment is done on the whole project,” said Princeton Mayor Frank Armitage.

“It’s done in a formal setting and it’s based then on facts brought by all parties.”

Andrew Jakubeit, a Penticton city councillor and RDOS director, said withholding judgment now will allow for a more educated position later on once more facts are known.

“Then there’s some substance there to say, ‘I really like this aspect of it, or, ‘We’re concerned about that,’” he said.

Patton countered that the board’s concerns could be helpful now.

“We also might be having suggestions or recommendations on issues that they haven’t considered yet. And, if that’s the case, it should be done earlier rather than later,” he said.

According to Fortis Inc.’s land tenure application, the dam is proposed to be up to 200 metres tall and 477 metres long, and create a 750-hectare reservoir behind it.

The dam is expected to generate between 45 and 65 megawatts of electricity. The B.C. government does not require proposed hydroelectric projects under 50 megawatts to go through a full environmental assessment.

The application also explains the dam’s power output would supply the company’s service area, while the reservoir would provide “numerous downstream benefits” like flood mitigation and flow shaping in Canada and the U.S.


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