The Sechelt Indian Band (SIB) in a partnership with Regional Power Inc. has been honoured with a Blue Planet Prize from UNESCO for the green hydropower project on the Sechelt Creek.
The project is a 16-megawatt facility designed, developed and built by Regional Power. It marks the first time a spawning and rearing channel was made as a part of a hydro development.
The SIB was instrumental in setting up the spawning channel on the creek and is continuing to operate it.
"[The spawning channel] is actually seeing results. We're seeing the salmon return to Sechelt Creek," said Sid Quinn of the SIB.
The project began operating in 1997 and sells all its electricity to BC Hydro under a long-term contract. It supplies enough electricity for a community of 9,000 homes. The project was acquired by the Clean Power Income Fund in 2001 and continues to be operated by Regional Power under a long-term operating agreement.
Another unique feature of the project is the power station. "The power station is made in a longhouse style. It fits our cultural standard and is environmentally friendly," Quinn added.
The project is 35 km from Sechelt and accessible only by boat or plane.
The UNESCO jury, in awarding the Blue Planet Prize to the project, said, "The Sechelt Creek scheme incorporates technical innovation in synergy with the local environment in a remote part of Canada. The scheme's intake and powerhouse have been designed to be as unobtrusive as possible. The development has also been successful in the re-establishment of a thriving salmon run. An important element of the scheme is the partnership with local Sechelt Indian Band and Fisheries authorities, leading to benefits for the local community and the environment."
Colin Coolican, president of Regional Power Inc., was in Sechelt March 3 and along with Quinn appeared on the CBC BC Almanac show. The two chose the show to bring the award back to the people of Sechelt.
Coolican explained the International Hydropower Association in conjunction with UNESCO awards the Blue Planet Prize every two years. This year the other recipients of the award were the Arrow Lakes generating station, also in B.C., and the Andhikhola Hydel and rural electrification scheme in Nepal.
The award was formally presented at a gala evening in Montreal in December 2005 by then Canadian Minister of the Environment Stephane Dion.
Quinn and Rick August represented the SIB at the festivities. The trip was a whirlwind two days that left the two men with high praise for the city. Quinn said they were welcomed wherever they went and congratulated on the award.