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Friday May 04, 2012


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Local News

Slide affecting access to power project sites

South Meager geothermal project rated ‘lower priority' for new U.S.-based owners

An official with the company that hopes to establish Canada's first commercial geothermal power project in the Meager Creek area last week said the recent Mount Meager landslide hasn't affected work on the project — but only because no work was taking place there before the slide.

Drilling to test the potential commercial viability on the South Meager Geothermal Project is on hold while the new owners of the project — Reno, Nev.-based Ram Power Inc. — focus their energies on projects that are actually producing geothermal power in California, Nevada and Mexico.

Ram Power took control of Vancouver-based Western GeoPower and a second company, Polaris Power, in August 2009. While company officials still hope to establish a power facility 70 kilometres northwest of Pemberton, they're not currently working to advance the project, Dan Schochet, Ram Power executive vice-president, told The Question on Thursday (Aug. 12).

South Meager was one of two geothermal projects on which Western GeoPower officials were working when the company was taken over. The other is The Geysers project in California, one of several in the state that's producing geothermal power.

Western GeoPower had been working on the South Meager project for several years. In 2002 and 2003, company officials projected that the project would be producing between 100 and 200 megawatts of power by 2007.

While test drilling showed more than sufficient temperatures to achieve commercial viability, permeability of the rock surrounding the superheated geothermal pools beneath the surface proved more problematic. However, as recently as 2008, a company official told The Question that Western GeoPower was still hoping to drill more test wells, with projections of power generation as early as 2010.

On Ram Power's website, though, the South Meager project rates nothing more than a dot on the company's “project description” map; text on the website provides details about the company's other projects, but none about South Meager.

Schochet admitted South Meager is a “lower priority” for the company at the moment.

“Drilling a well there is a costly proposition — it's on a mountainside and accessed by logging roads,” Schochet said. “In all honesty, it's probably not going to be anything we develop in the very near future. It's still on our books, we haven't given up hope on it, but we're not doing much in there right now.”

The Lillooet Forest Service Road, which provides access to the site, is closed “until further notice” at the 9-kilometre mark because of debris from the Aug. 6 Mount Meager slide, according to the Ministry of Forests website.

Schochet said that despite the lack of activity at the South Meager site — which is upslope from the slide, on the shoulder of Pylon Peak — company officials are interested in seeing the road reopen.

“We were concerned when we saw the landslide because the logging road going in there (was closed), but it hasn't affected anything we were planning to do there in the immediate future,” he said. “But we still want to see things happen there.”

“We were concerned when we saw the landslide because the logging road going in there (was closed), but it hasn't affected anything we were planning to do there in the immediate future,” he said. “But we still want to see things happen there.”

Meanwhile, the proponents of a cluster of three run-of-river power projects in the Upper Lillooet have found access to those sites more difficult since the slide, a company official said.

Because of the closure of the Lillooet FSR, a team from Innergex — which is proposing to build run-of-river projects on North Creek, Boulder Creek and the Upper Lillooet River — boarded a helicopter on Thursday to continue work on the projects, said Nuno Louzeiro, a project engineer with Innergex.

None of the proposed power plant sites was affected by the slide — the closest, Boulder Creek, is about three kilometres from the end of the slide path near the confluence of Meager Creek and the Lillooet River, Louzeiro said.

“The forest service road is closed because there's material directly on it,” he said. “We tried contacting the Ministry of Forests and Range to get a schedule from them, but there's no information available (about when the road might reopen).

“They've been helpful in just giving us an idea about what's going on out there, though.”

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