Trouble at Ashlu River (Movie Review)
In October, I was at the Planet in Focus Film Festival in Toronto for a screening of my film You Never Bike Alone.
One of the other British Columbian films that I caught there was 49 Megawatts.
Bryan Smith is a kayaker who discovered that a dam was going to be built on one of his favourite paddling places, the Ashlu River, near Squamish. His response, after being initially incredulous that anybody would want to develop such a beautiful, natural setting, was to make a film. His 30-minute documentary 49 Megawatts, completed earlier this year, shows just how easy it to turn a healthy, attractive ecosystem into a gravel pit in the name of “green energy.”
Some of you will already know something of the trouble at the Ashlu. The independent power project (IPP) is one of potentially hundreds that the BC Liberals are pushing to introduce on rivers across the province. With a brazenness that's become a hallmark of the province's dealings with local communities, when local government voted against Ledcor's IPP permit for the Ashlu the province introduced Bill 30 to override its decision.
Smith brings together a commendable range of voices – industry experts and professionals, mayors from Whistler and Squamish, academics, energy specialists, and locals to grapple with the issues. The film points out that the IPP, which involves boring a tunnel through a mountain, is clearly not “small” - defined as under 50 megawatts by law - and should have undergone a more rigorous public planning process.
Conspicuously absent are spokespersons from Ledcor, the provincial government, and the Squamish Nation, who after initially opposing the project came out in support of it. Smith says they declined to do interviews.
The 30-minute Quicktime movie can be downloaded for free from Ashlu.info.
The direct link is here.
Article originally published in Common Ground magazine