The Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) gave the green light last week to the Box Canyon power project at McNab Creek, after directors decided not to hold a second public information meeting on the Lower Mainland.
The call for a second meeting was raised during the June 11 public hearing in Gibsons, which drew 21 people. Some speakers argued that Metro Vancouver and Howe Sound residents with a stake in the McNab Valley should have been better notified and given the opportunity to attend a meeting in a more convenient venue.
At their July 18 planning and development committee meeting, SCRD directors discussed an option presented by staff of holding an off-Coast information meeting and then a second public hearing in the Gibsons area.
West Howe Sound director Lee Turnbull said there were pros and cons to extending the public consultation period.
While there is “great concern about all the activity going on in the area,” Turnbull said, “I don’t want to delay it so that the proponents can’t get going this summer.”
Committee chair Donna Shugar asked staff whether presenters from the first public hearing would have to re-submit their comments.
“We would want to know their positions haven’t changed,” senior planner David Rafael affirmed.
“It seems to me it puts folks who came out for the first public hearing at a disadvantage,” Shugar said of the option.
In the end, the committee did not recommend holding an off-Coast meeting or second public hearing, but staff was directed to report back on several outstanding issues before the Box Canyon rezoning bylaw was considered for adoption.
With those issues addressed — including verification from Chief Gibby Jacob of Squamish Nation’s support for the project — the board formally adopted the bylaw at its July 25 regular meeting.
The bylaw rezones 250 square metres of Crown land to allow Box Canyon Hydro Corp. to construct a powerhouse about 30 metres from McNab Creek.
The project will use stream flow from three tributaries — Marty, Cascara and Box Canyon creeks — to feed a generator located above the confluence of Box Canyon and McNab creeks. The plant is expected to have a capacity of 15 megawatts, producing enough power for about 5,500 households.
Company officials told directors earlier this year that they had signed a partnership agreement with the Squamish Nation and had obtained a conditional water licence and land tenure from the province.
The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans indicated during the public hearing that all compensation for fish habitat loss would occur in the McNab Valley, Rafael told the committee, which had raised the issue at an earlier meeting.
The company will have to obtain a temporary use permit for a concrete batch plant and is continuing to negotiate a community benefits package with the SCRD.
Staff will also develop a policy for consulting the public on applications that have broader than usual community impacts.
In other business, the committee agreed to send a letter to the province supporting the development of three recreational sites on the west shore of Howe Sound for kayakers and canoeists — at Islet View, between Ellesmere and Potlatch creeks; Thornborough Channel, east of McNab Creek; and Bain Creek, between Rainy River and McNab Creek.
The province’s recreation sites and trails division is planning to legally establish a total of eight seaside recreation sites on Howe Sound, including two on Gambier Island, at Latona Passage and Ramillies Channel.
“I’m very excited about it,” Turnbull said. “I think it’s a very positive step.”