Deal brokered to keep sled access open

By: Korie Marshall

An agreement has been reached between a local recreation association and an energy company that will ensure continued access to a vital sledding area south of Valemount.

Some local residents had concerns this summer that planned work to complete an independent power project on Clemina Creek would affect access to the alpine sledding area of the same name for snowmobilers. Clemina is one of three main sledding areas south of the community managed by Valemount Area Recreation and Development Association (VARDA), and sledding is a major driver of tourism in the village in the winter.

Sorgent.e is an Italian based energy company, and the new proponent for some run-of-river power projects in the North Thompson valley, including Clemina Creek, about 35 kilometers south of Valemount. There was already substantial development on the project by former proponents. TransAlta completed a 19 megawatt facility at Bone Creek, just north of Blue River in 2010 before selling other partially completed projects to Sorgent.e. The site of the existing powerhouse is just upstream from a bridge over Clemina Creek, about five kilometers up the trail from the sledding parking lot.

Lucas de Haro, managing director of Sorgent.e General Services Ltd., said the former developer also made improvements and extensions to the forest service road which is part of the access trail to the Clemina sledding area. He said this past summer there was a signed memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the association, but VARDA manager Curtis Pawliuk said he was unaware of the status of the agreement, and they’d really just started talking with the company.

“We look forward to working cooperatively with them,” said Pawliuk in July.

Rebecca Putters, spokesperson for Sorgent.e Hydro Canada Corp. says the company signed an agreement with VARDA on Oct. 8th.

“We’re all happy to have this agreement in place and we’re looking forward to working with VARDA through our MOU during construction and operations,” said Putters.

“VARDA’s only goal was to ensure public access for recreation at all times, and the recent MOU provides this,” says Pawliuk. He says Sorgent.e was very understanding and accommodating of the importance the Clemina sledding area has to the Valemount community and winter economy. “We are quite pleased and wish Sorgent.e luck with the project.”

Putters says there are some considerations that have to be made by the company, but Sorgent.e is happy with the agreement.

“As a new member of the community, we are quite willing to work with organizations and the community.”

Completion of the project requires a $30-$40 million investment, and will mean jobs for around 200 people during the construction phase said de Haro this summer. Construction wouldn’t start before spring 2016 and is dependent on an agreement with BC Hydro for the connection to the grid, including building a power line. After construction, it will likely only mean one or two direct jobs, but studies have shown that projects like this create between five and 10 indirect jobs, said de Haro.

“There are water license fees, land tenure fees, and a long term agreement with Simpcw First Nation, so there is a cash flow that helps to create jobs,” said de Haro.

Putters said they are getting close to starting work, and the project is looking hopeful.

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