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

Organizations helping Alberni’s marginalized feel the pinch

Operational demands, wage hike put hole in Bread of Life budget

Port Alberni votes to change way council pay is increased

New way will focus on Consumer Price Index, future councils

Port Alberni’s Salvation Army kettle campaign needs help

Dec. 15 is matching day at Walmart kettle

‘Ghost bikes’ installed to remember teen cyclists who died in Port Alberni

Cycle Alberni installs memorials to remember teens, remind all about road safety

Mount Washington opening for winter season this weekend

The resort’s original opening day was delayed due to lack of snow

Trudeau to make it harder for future PM to reverse Senate reforms

Of the 105 current senators, 54 are now independents who have banded together in Independent Senators’ Group

Man dies after falling from B.C. bridge

Intoxicated man climbed railing, lost his balance and fell into the water below

B.C. animation team the ‘heart’ of new ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’

The animators, largely based in Vancouver, ultimately came up with a creative technique that is drawing praise

Light at the end of the tunnel for UN climate talks

Meeting in Katowice was meant to finalize how countries report their emissions of greenhouses gases

Janet Jackson, Def Leppard, Nicks join Rock Hall of Fame

Radiohead, the Cure, Roxy Music and the Zombies will also be ushered in at the 34th induction ceremony

Supreme Court affirms privacy rights for Canadians who share a computer

Section 8 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects Canadians against unreasonable search and seizure

‘I practically begged’: Kootenay woman with breast cancer denied referral to Calgary

Breast cancer patient left to fight disease alone after being denied referral to Calgary

21 detained before Paris protests as police deploy in force

There was a strong police presence outside the central Saint Lazare train station, where police in riot gear checked bags

ICBC to apply for 6.3% hike to basic insurance rates

Crown Corporation said it will be submitting its next basic rate application to the British Columbia Utilities Commission Friday

Most Read