Local kayakers say they are opposed to a plan to install a run-of-river power project on a Chilliwack River Valley creek.
Tamihi Creek, which enters the Chilliwack River just west of the Tamihi Rapids, is popular with kayakers, who say an eight-kilometre stretch provides a diverse range of whitewaters that attracts users from around the world.
But kayakers fear they won't be able to use the creek if a run-of-river power project proposed for the creek goes ahead.
During BC Hydro's 2006 call for tenders for independent power projects, KMC Energy, a subsidiary of WindRiver Power Corp., successfully bid for the right to install a run-of-river project on the creek.
While the Tamihi remains undeveloped, kayaker Adam Frey was spooked when he recently visited and found pink flagging tape lining the entire run.
When contacted by the Times, WindRiver chief development officer Greg Trainor confirmed the project is "in the pre-consultation planning stages."
Trainor said that while the company is not saying much publicly about the project at this time, "there will be ample opportunity to discuss the project during the public consultation process at which time better information will be available."
If and when the project gets to that point, WindRiver will face opposition to their plans.
Frey, who represents the Vancouver Kayak Club (VKC) on the Outdoor Recreation Council (ORC) of BC, said the creek is a local treasure that provides an economic benefit to the Chilliwack area.
"That creek is one of the biggest draws in the area," said Frey, who lives in Chilliwack. "There are people who use it on a daily basis when the road's not washed out."
He said the gradient, the scenery, and the accessibility of the creek all make it worth protecting.
"Tamihi is very unique in that it has three very distinct stretches," he said. "It caters to a wide range of whitewater kayakers, from intermediate to really advanced paddlers."
Ryan Bayes, who co-owns Western Canoeing and Kayaking in Abbotsford and paddles with the VKC, said he gets customers from around the world who fly into the Lower Mainland to tackle British Columbia's whitewater.
Bayes says those tourists spend a considerable amount of money in the area. But he says B.C.'s promotion of independent power projects has been damaging the province's image among paddlers.
"Right now B.C.'s got a pretty bad reputation in the paddling scene across the world," he said. "We are one of the top four or five destinations for whitewater kayaking in the world and we're kind of getting a reputation for putting all our good paddling streams into pipes . . . for private power."
An avid fisherman, Bayes also fears a power project would jeopardize the health of fish that spawn in the creek.
The Vancouver Kayak Club is joined in their opposition by the Chilliwack Centre of Excellence (CCE), a local kayak club. While the CCE tends to focus their activities on the Chilliwack River, club president Rob Fletcher told the Times that members met recently and agreed to take a stand against independent power projects in the valley.
But at least one such design has already made its way on to the website of contractor Associated Engineering.
According to the site, the project would generate 15 megawatts of renewable power and would feature a large pipe that would be 1.8 metres in diameter and approximately 4.6 km long.