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Stephan Savoia

Four power projects, including one that will install 66 wind turbines on the northeast coast of Vancouver Island, have been approved under a new purchase agreement by BC Hydro.

However, an offshore wind project proposed for Hecate Strait has fallen out of contention, while a controversial run-of-river project on the Klinaklini River is still hoping for future approval.

Shortly after the latest clean-energy call was announced Wednesday, NaiKun Wind Energy Group Inc. released a statement saying its offshore wind farm, near Haida Gwaii, "is no longer under consideration" by BC Hydro.

"We are obviously very disappointed with the outcome and will seek discussions with BC Hydro to fully understand its decision and determine the most effective path forward," said Paul Taylor, NaiKun Wind's president and CEO.

BC Hydro is continuing discussions with eight proponents of clean power call proposals and expects to sign more agreements.

Its announcement drew criticism from environmentalists, who say power purchase agreements should not precede environmental approvals.

"We think there should  be a moratorium on clean energy calls until a public consultation process has been worked out," said Gwen Barlee, policy director for the Wilderness Committee.

"They are currently granting energy purchase agreements before these projects have been through environmental assessment and that's crazy - it's like saying the environmental assessment process in B.C. is a rubber stamp," she said.

Ms. Barlee added she was glad the Klinaklini River project, a proposed 600-megawatt project by Kleana Power Corp., was not on the energy purchase list, but she is concerned it remains on the list still under consideration.

The Klinaklini project is perhaps the most controversial one on the books because it is located in a pristine watershed, on the Central Coast, where there are high salmon, wilderness and wildlife values. It would also back up water into a nature conservancy in the Great Bear Rainforest.

Vicky Husband, a senior adviser for Watershed Watch Salmon Society, said she is left "almost speechless" by the knowledge that BC Hydro could still approve the Klinaklini project.

"There's salmon everywhere in that system and that's a huge concern," she said.

But Alexander Eunall, president of Kleana Power Corp., said the project will not have major environmental impact.

"People just look at the capacity, but it's a very small footprint," Mr. Eunall said.

He said the footprint is "minuscule" when compared to BC Hydro's own proposed megaproject, the Site C dam on the Peace River, which would have 900 megawatts of capacity but would create a reservoir nearly 90 kilometres in length.

Mr. Eunall said the Klinaklini plans are preliminary but he envisions a weir, or dam, of between 10 and 15 metres height. Government sources, however, said they have been presented with different versions of the proposal including, one that has a dam 30 metres high.

In total, the project would take up 10 square kilometres, most of that for the long, 51-metre-wide right of way cleared for a transmission line.

Mr. Eunall said while the project "is on the backburner," he's still hopeful it will go ahead. "It's a very green project," he said.

But Barry Penner, B.C.'s Environment Minister, said he'd like to see more detail before he would agree with that assessment.

"What is being described there sounds like a challenging project, one that would be subject to rigorous environment scrutiny and rightly so before it would be permitted," Mr. Penner said.

The four projects approved by BC Hydro will generate more than 450 gigawatt hours (GWh) of electricity - enough to supply about 40,000 homes.

The projects are the Knob Hill wind farm (281 GWh) to be built by Sea Breeze Energy Inc. near Port Hardy; a (68 GWh) hydro-project by Run of River Power Inc. in the Mamquam watershed, near Squamish; a (56 GWh) run-of-river project by ENMAX-Syntaris Bid Corp., on Culliton Creek also near Squamish, and a (46 GWh) waste heat plant near Sparwood, to be built by AltaGas Ltd.