Maple Ridge councillor worried about Stave Lake plans

Concerned about Abbotsford’s plan to tap into it for drinking water and possible effect on recreation uses in the area

Abbotsford city recently forwarded to referendum this fall its plans to tap into Stave Lake using a public-private partnership for the infrastructure.

Abbotsford city recently forwarded to referendum this fall its plans to tap into Stave Lake using a public-private partnership for the infrastructure.

Maple Ridge Coun. Al Hogarth is still worried about a big city’s plans to tap into Stave Lake, but he’s going to have to wait a few weeks before he has any answers.

“As a community, I’d hate to see Alouette Lake cordoned off. I’d hate to see Stave Lake cordoned off. At this point in time, nobody has satisfied me that this won’t happen,” Coun. Al Hogarth said at Monday’s council workshop.

He’s concerned about Abbotsford’s plan to tap into Stave Lake for part of its drinking water and the possible effect on recreation uses in the area.

It took the Alouette River Management Society years to protect the South Alouette River, he pointed out.

“If this were to change, what’s in it for us?

“I really think we need some answers. If we sit back without voicing our opinion on this, that referendum is going to pass.”

Abbotsford city recently forwarded to referendum this fall its plans to tap into Stave Lake using a public-private partnership for the infrastructure. It’s also applied to PPP Canada for money to help with that project.

Hogarth though is concerned that Abbotsford’s use of the lake for drinking water could curtail recreational uses on the Stave and Maple Ridge’s Alouette Lake, which is connected to Stave Lake with giant pipes.

The Alouette- Stave- Ruskin network is part of B.C. Hydro’s generation system for the Lower Mainland. Water from Alouette Lake is directed by tunnel to the Alouette Powerhouse on Stave Lake Reservoir where it then passes through the Stave Falls Powerhouse, and into Hayward Lake Reservoir. It then goes through the Ruskin Powerhouse and eventually down into the Fraser River.

Alouette Lake borders Golden Ears Provincial Park, one of the busiest in the province.

He raised similar concerns last year when Abbotsford first discussed the project.

If  the project goes ahead, Abbotsford will have to pay for the privilege of drawing water from a B.C. Hydro reservoir.

B.C. Hydro spokesman Steve Higginbottom told Maple Ridge council that Abbotsford would have to pay Hydro between $1.4 million and $3.4 million a year.

“So we would expect the City of Abbotsford to compensate.”

He pointed out the water-use plan signed in 1996 between B.C. Hydro and the provincial government which protects wildlife and recreation use still would be in effect.

“They’re aware that they’ll need to compensate for that energy.”

He added later that the water drawn by Abbotsford would mean a reduction of between two to five per cent of the mean energy available.

Originally, Mission was to join in the project but pulled out because of opposition so instead of a joint, $300-million project, Abbotsford has decided to act on its own on a smaller, approximately $284 million), proposal. The new plan still includes a pump station and treatment plant at Stave Lake, but no longer includes an expansion to the MacLure reservoir or treatment of water from Cannel Lake.

Hogarth raised similar concerns last year but Jim Gordon, general manager, engineering and regional utilities with the City of Abbotsford, said then the intent is to be taking water from the Stave by 2015. Over time, Stave Lake could supply half the city’s drinking water.

Water testing has already started and has been shown to be good and the city’s not asking for any existing activities to be curtailed.

Metro Vancouver’s senior engineer with regional planning utility Stan Woods also said there are few watersheds such as Metro Vancouver’s where no public access is allowed.

But he said the better protection an area receives, the less treatment is required.

Kamloops, Woods points out, takes its water from the North Thompson River and Kelowna draws from Okanagan Lake, used heavily for recreation.

Higginbottom expects the $800-million upgrade of Ruskin Dam to proceed, after the review of B.C. Hydro at the end of the month.


Smart metres coming

Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows residents will be getting a letter in a few weeks telling them it’s time to switch to Smart Meters.

The conversion process to switch all B.C. homes from mechanical meters to electronic, wireless devices starts in July, Maple Ridge council heard Monday.

It’s a process that will take place provincewide, involving 1.9 million homes, except for remote areas, and should be done by 2012.

B.C. Hydro community relations spokesman Steve Higginbottom told council that the changeover process will take technicians about 10 minutes and involve a power outage of about a minute.

One advantage of the new meters is that Hydro no longer will have to wait for someone to report a power outage because the new meters will relay that instantaneously to headquarters.

“The whole grid itself, will be smart. So there’s lots and lots of advantages to it.”

The meters will send out low-frequency radio waves to transmit consumption amounts. Those signals are issued for only seconds a day, adding up to the equivalent of a half hour of cellphone conversation a year.

Hydro says it won’t have access to customers’ real-time consumption of power.

Eventually, customers will be able to monitor their own power consumption, but Higginbottom said Hydro presently has no plans to introduce scaled power rates, based on time of use.

B.C. Hydro is currently undergoing a ministerial review, but Higginbottom expects the planned $800-million upgrade of the Ruskin Dam on the Maple Ridge-Mission border will continue.

“Renovations should proceed as scheduled.”

The project is a major piece of B.C. Hydro’s $6-billion plan for upgrading aging facilities across the province. The powerhouse’s three 35 megawatt generators will be replaced, allowing for a 10-per-cent gain in power generation. When finished, the dam will provide enough energy to power 33,000 homes, or roughly a city of the size of Maple Ridge.

A major component of the project will be making sure the dam will be able to withstand a major earthquake.

Vancouver-based company Corix will be installing the Smart Meters. B.C. Hydro says their contract will result in an estimated $30-40 million in direct wage benefits in B.C. through the hiring and training of a labour force of more than 350.

The company says Smart Metering will pay for itself through reduced theft of electricity, energy savings and operating efficiencies, and deliver $520 million in net benefits over 20 years