Friday, June 12, 2009

Podunk Below the Masthead, Thursday, June 11, 2009

Wind Power makes for conversation on the Charlottes, job cuts announced at School District 52 and high salmon numbers may go for waste, some of the highlights of the Thursday Daily News.

WIND TALKERS-- The prospect of wind power on the Charlottes was the topic of the day as Naikun brought their travelling information sessions across the Hecate Strait to Haida Gwaii. The project is providing for some hope for a reliable energy source away from the current diesel generated power, but with each delay and the ongoing discussion many are becoming sceptical that the project will ever get off the ground (see story below)

School District 52 reaches some hard decisions regarding staffing, as in order to make their budget 10 positions will be eliminated and employees laid off for September. The move comes after the officials weighed their options and crunched their numbers on how best to achieve their budget goals. (see story elsewhere on the blog, link to it here )

The upcoming salmon season will provide a bumper pink season, but a large problem as well. With such a large return of pinks set to come in, there are fears that the offal plant at J. S. McMillan will not be able to keep up with demand. With that in mind, there is a very good possibility that a large excess of the fish processing may be taken offshore and dumped.

The Triple Island area may be the dumping ground if the necessary permits are received by the fishing companies from Environment Canada. If clearance is not provided for the offshore dumping, there's a possibility that the overage of offal may be hauled to the Prince Rupert dump, a situation that should get local bears rather excited.

The sports pages provided a review of last weekends archery competition hosted by the eagle archers as well as a preview of this weekends Seafest Slo-Pitch tournament.

Total pages in the Thursday edition (14)

Front page, headline story:

By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Page one

For the people who live on Haida Gwaii, NaiKun's 110-turbine wind energy projcct could be just the remedy to get them off the siland communities reliance on diesel-generated power.

But the project's vaunted HaidaLink, which would see a proposed substation in Tlell to hook islanders up to the provincial electric grid system, is no slam dunk.

"HaidaLink is not guaranteed, but if BC Hydro says 'yes,' it could happen as it would fit not only their Clean power Call, but also their Island power Call," said NaiKun's vice-president of commercial operations, Jack Scott.

Naikun's vice president Matt Burns said the company has tried to inform people on Haida Gwaii that HaidaLink is not guaranteed, but some locals haven't seemed to grasp that.

"I've tried to explain that it's going to be up to us to indicate the importance of the link to the people on Haida Gwaii, and our link is the most efficient, which we have started a dialogue with BC Hydro about."

BC Hydro has stated that while it is possible that a solution for Haida Gwaii may be proposed in the Clean power Call, there is no certainty that BC Hydro will award an electricity purchase agreement to such a project.

"Possible options could include delaying the launch of the HG/QCI RFP until after the Clean power Call is completed.

That's because through all the community advocacy and publicity the project has received on Haida Gwaii and in Prince Rupert and Port Edward, the final decision rests in the hands of BC Hydro. It's the power provider that must decide how comprehensive the power project is.

That doesn't mean the interest level doesn't exist on the islands.

At Tuesday's public consultation on NaiKun's environmental assessment in Queen Charlotte City, locals asked questions ranging from migratory bird patterns, to concerns about the brief 45-day window for the public to study a 4,ooo-page application, to why the project was not moved closer to Prince Rupert.

"The wind turbine technology only allows for a maximum ocean depth of 30 metres and the Prince Rupert side reaches at certain areas 100 metres," answered Scott.

NaiKun spent Monday and Tuesday travelling Highway 16 to meet with people on both the north and south ends of the islands as part of the mandatory public consultation portion of the environmental assessment.

The assessment is necessary before any action is take by the Federal and Provincial governments on whether or not to approve the projects.

Eventually, the questions returned to what the project was going to bring to the communities on Haida Gwaii.

Masset retirees Aliet' Secord and Stu Gorrill said they were skeptical the project would ever come to fruition, citing the length of time it has taken to . get off the ground, and the their doubts that investment bankers would back the project.

While both said neither was an investment expert, they said they are tired of the publicity the project has received and would rather the NaiKun team just get on with it.

"There should be less talk and more action," said Gorill, who was having a coffee outside the Sebreeze Cafe, which -stands only feet away from NaiKun's Haida Gwaii Energy Center.

Gorrill, a former BC Hydro worker, said people in Masset don't realize how much the community is reliant on diesel energy, "and 90 per cent of them couldn't even tell you where the generating plant is.

"With this wind project, you are still going to need diesel power as backup."

But Haida Nation member and Masset resident Ross Samuels said he could indeed find the diesel plant, and that most of Masset, as far as he was concerned, was in favour.

"I think eventually the (Naikun) project is a no-brainer. We have to get off of old energy sources because there is a responsibility to the global community to do so."

As to where the electrical power came from, Samuels didn't have to think too long about it.

"The diesel generation plant is just right outside of town," said Samuels.

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