Huu-ay-aht Executive Councillor Trevor Cootes receives a cheque from MLA Scott Fraser, minister for Indigenous relations and reconciliation, in support of the Sarita River project. MIKE YOUDS PHOTO

Huu-ay-aht First Nations closer to ‘clean energy’ goal

Sarita River awaits government review of independent power projects



Huu-ay-aht First Nations believe they are closer to realizing a long-held ambition — a $20-million independent power project (IPP) on the Sarita River.

Band councillors outlined the project’s status Friday, May 4 at the Anacla Government Office in Anacla, where Mid Island-Pacific Rim MLA Scott Fraser, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, presented them with a cheque for $450,000.

The clincher for the project, however, would be an electrical purchase agreement with B.C. Hydro. The Crown corporation announced in March it has a standing offer with five First Nations, including HFN, to proceed with electrical purchase agreements for their IPPs.

Executive Councilor Trevor Cootes, whose portfolio includes economic development, said developing “clean energy,” along with forestry and tourism, has been a top priority in recent years. They’ve spent nine years bringing the five-megawatt run-of-river project to this stage, working in partnership with the renewable energy firm Barkley Project Group.

“As a power provider it will generate approximately $2.2 million per year in sales of electricity to B.C. Hydro,” Cootes said. “We have a complete project design and we have received all of our regulatory permits.”

The generating station could provide more secure power to the entire area — they are subject to storm-related outages in winter — while generating enough surplus electricity to sell to Hydro. They hope to see the project completed by 2020.

“We’re working with B.C. Hydro to get an electricity purchase agreement in place and that will provide us with market security and provide long-term viability. We’re currently looking at 40 years for this project,” said Cootes. This is based on turbine life but with prospects for lengthier service.

Known as the Heart of the People, Sarita River has been integral to Huu-ay-aht culture for millennia. Cootes said HFN have completed extensive rehabilitation work along the river to restore the main channel and upper reaches, important fish habitats damaged by logging in the 1950s and ’60s. The generating station will be located above the river falls with minimal impact on aquatic life and no change in the level of Sarita Lake.

Self-governance and the decade-old Maa-nulth Treaty have benefitted Huu-ay-aht, said Chief Councillor Robert Dennis Sr., placing the Sarita project in context.

“We do realize as Huu-ay-aht we’re just a little speck on the provincial radar, so sometimes we have to do things a little differently in order to be heard,” Dennis said, acknowledging the province’s assistance with a nod to the NDP government. “We’re really glad that you’re there.”

Fraser praised work done to date on the project. The First Nations Clean Energy Business Fund, source of the funding announced Friday, is an important part of providing clean energy to First Nations and benefits the region, he said.

“I just think it’s a great example of how to build a solid project plan. It’s an example to the province on how to do it right.”

Quoting from a meeting with the Carrier-Sekani First Nation in Prince George, Fraser said he liked the idea of partnerships “doing constructive damage to the status quo.”

“We have to change the way we work together with government-to-government relationships and true partnerships,” he said.

Wiisqi, speaker for the Kiix-in, one of 13 Huu-ay-aht communities, welcomed visitors to Huu-ay-aht by leading in song a group that included band councillors and the MLA.

Just Posted

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve issues cougar warning at Kennedy Lake

Cougar encounter reported between Tofino and Ucluelet.

Deadline looming for North Island College scholarship applications

Students have until April 24 to apply for a record number of… Continue reading

BC Ferries to pilot selling beer and wine on select routes

Drinks from select B.C. breweries and VQA wineries to be sold on Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen route

Hupacasath First Nation re-elects entire council for new term

Steven Tatoosh takes helm for fifth term as chief, talks economic prosperity for future

Young Professionals of the Alberni Valley seek members, new partnerships

Next Alberni Connect event is Thursday, April 18

VIDEO: Alberta man creates world’s biggest caricature

Dean Foster is trying to break the world record for a radio show contest

B.C. senior sentenced for sexually abusing special-needs granddaughter

73-year-old Cortes Island man will go to jail for three years

Howe Sound Queen sailing toward retirement

Vessel now up for auction ends regular runs between Crofton and Vesuvius at the beginning of June

Should B.C. lower speed limits on side roads to 30 km/h?

Vancouver city councillor wants to decrease speed limits along neighbourhood side roads

Lawsuit eyed over union-only raise for B.C. community care workers

‘Low-wage redress’ leaves 17,000 employees out, employers say

Landlord of alleged Okanagan shooter recounts deadly day

Tony Friesen was working in one of the units of his Penticton building when he heard shots

Foreign national arrested in connection to thefts at YVR

A woman, 60, is being held in police custody as Richmond RCMP investigate

Police pursue pesky porker on Vancouver Island

‘This was allegedly not the pig’s first escape’

Westjet tries again to dismiss proposed class-action lawsuit alleging discrimination

Former flight attendant claims airline broke contractual promise to create harassment-free workplace

Most Read