City council on Monday, Jan. 11, voted to defer a resolution to seek funding toward a hydro-electric dam on the North Fork of the Granby River. Council will consider spending $7,500 to outsource grant funding for the opening stage of the project at a preliminary budget meeting, Thursday, Jan. 21.
Council heard from renewable energy consultant Randolph Seibold, who highlighted the project’s benefits and risks in a presentation to the Committee of the Whole.
Seibold said the “business case” for the project “is not strong,” according to a 2013 feasibility study by the consulting firm Urban Solutions. Granting that the dam’s hydro electric power couldn’t be marketed competitively against the energy provider FortisBC, Seibold noted that the project would boost Grand Forks’ “water security” and wildfire protection by creating a large reservoir behind the dam. Damming the North Fork would provide enhanced flood control by delaying the impact of flood waters, he added.
Around 30 area properties would be affected if the dam went ahead, he said, qualifying that this “would not be an insurmountable challenge” to the project.
Seibold said council’s investment would allow him to secure “the best and most timely sources of grant funding” for the first $1 million towards the project, estimated to cost between $20 – 30 million overall.
Councillor Moslin recused himself from any resolutions relating to the project, citing a potential conflict of interest. Councillors Neil Krog and Everett Baker expressed muted interest in moving forward.
“I’m not 100 per cent sure on this,” Krog said. Baker said he shared Krog’s reservations. “I’m hesitant,” he said.
Councillor Zak Eburne-Stoodley said, “I’m not very enthusiastic about this project.” Absent a strong business case, Eburne-Stoodley said the project would amount to “a 617 acre swamp and a dam roughly the same height as Observation Mountain.”
Council had been approached by the Osoyoos Indian Band, whose Chief Clarence Louie had expressed interest in co-funding Seibold’s $7,500 request to pursue grant funding. Councillors Krog and Baker advised against, noting that they did not want city hall to be beholden to partners outside The City of Grand Forks.
Council will revisit the proposed investment at chambers Monday, Jan. 25.