A proposal to test the waters of Skookumchuck Narrows for tidal power generation has received a firm thumbs down from the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD).
Vancouver-based Western Tidal Holdings applied to the province last September for an investigative permit to explore the potential for a tidal energy generating facility in and around Skookumchuck Narrows, which forms the entrance to Sechelt Inlet.
Issued by the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, the permit would be valid for two years and would allow the company to collect data by using acoustic underwater instruments similar to sonar to measure current speeds.
After reviewing the application last month, the SCRD’s natural resources advisory committee (NRAC) and Area A advisory planning commission (APC) both objected to the permit, with NRAC saying it was “fundamentally opposed” to the project.
“The proposed seafloor-mounted equipment is of significant concern due to its continuous operation over the period of one year,” the Jan. 23 NRAC minutes said. “Infrasound and higher decibel pulses are known to confuse or frighten certain juvenile salmonids and marine mammals. The investigative permit is only the first step and the exploratory phase is considered invasive in itself.”
At the SCRD’s Feb. 14 planning and development committee meeting, directors passed a motion outlining the reasons they did not support the exploratory permit, citing navigational hazards, noise pollution, interference with recreation, possible disturbance of rockfish conservation Area 16, and existing resource pressures.
Pender Harbour/Egmont director Frank Mauro said his area’s APC supports “clean, sustainable, non-polluting power sources,” but could not endorse the application.
“Insufficient information has been supplied to even consider this, notwithstanding the fact that there’s too many downsides to this kind of project in this location,” Mauro said.
Elphinstone director Lorne Lewis agreed the proposal set off “a whole bunch of warning bells” for him.
“I’ll bet those things make lots of noise underwater,” Lewis said. “You don’t hear them, but if you’re a little aquatic animal, I’ll bet you they’re terrifying.”
Committee chair Donna Shugar said the objections raised were valid.
“But I have concerns that, not in this case necessarily, but there are green projects that come forward that everybody objects to, and I guess I’m anxious to know where we’ll be able to have green power, where we’ll be able to have tidal power, where we’ll be able to have non-invasive, run-of-the-river projects. Every single time one of these things come forward, there’s a reaction against it because of the change. I think we have to get with it and start saying yes to some of these projects,” Shugar said.
In her report to the committee, planner Teresa Fortin said the first requirement for viable ocean energy sites is the presence of suitably strong tidal currents and wave action, while an important second factor is proximity to the electricity grid.
“The applicants believe the Skook-umchuck meets these criteria,” Fortin said.
NRAC also recommended the SCRD, in consultation with the Sechelt Indian Government District, investigate zoning that would prohibit such activity on the foreshore.