Friday, August 21, 2009

Run of the River power

I have been doing some research on some energy issues and doing some comparisons of different energy sources and their relative costs financially, socially and environmentally. In doing this work and developing the report I was going to put in some of the environmental issues with run of river power projects. Guess what, I can not find any measurable data showing any environmental impact from run of the river in BC.

There are people that say run of the river is a problem for wildlife. I looked for any research that shows that wildlife is negatively impacted by run of the river in BC. I could find nothing. No data or research within any of the submissions to the Environmental Assessment process indicated any measurable impact to wildlife

Many people are talking about impact on fish, once again I can not find any data indicating any measurable impact on fish. In fact the majority of the projects I looked at were on sections of water courses that do not have fish within them and are above the fish habitat area. There is no good data I could find that there has been any temperature or water flow changes due to the projects.

Increased human activity is claimed to be detrimental, but I can not see the evidence that the added people from run of the river is measurable above the existing impact of forestry, mineral exploration and tourism.

All the projects approved in the EAO process have mitigation strategies for presumed impacts on the environment. They also have long term data gathering going on. It seems to me that the power companies will be required to improve the environment to something better than before the power project was built.

When I blogged about wind power, I was sent a lot of data on people claiming environmental impacts from the windmills. I may not agree with some of what they are saying, but at least there is data to discuss. When it comes to run of the river I can not find any data indicating a problem. All the data I can find indicates there is no measurable impact.

All I am finding are suppositions of potential problems or wild hyperbole with no backing. I can find nothing to indicate that the operating projects have caused any measurable harm to the environment. I have seen one thing in relation to Miller Creek that there was a problem with water flows in 2007 due to human error. Though it was caught before there was an impact.

These power projects are almost all in areas that are within or close to the timber harvesting land base in BC. The footprint of the power projects is several orders of magnitude smaller than the timber harvesting that is going on in the same areas. As an example, the total footprint of all the new land to be disturbed by the Bute Inlet project of Plutonic Power will be smaller than an average clear cut. This for a project that will produce the scale of power of something like the large hydro electric projects. Williston Resevoir, created by the WAC Bennett dam, has an area of 175 000 hectares. That is an area roughly equal to all the timber harvesting in one year in BC.

To put it in other terms, to use the same footprint as the WAC Bennett dam, there would have to be several thousand Bute Inlet type projects built.

I am happy to read anything out there that indicates there is something measurable going on, though I would love to know where it is hiding.

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