Site C Dam Campaign

More than their policy of self sufficiency, the BC government wants to be an energy exporter. “To export energy reliably, they need to have it backed up by something like the [$6 billion] Site C Dam,” Tria Donaldson, Pacific Coast Campaigner, Wilderness Committee, told me recently. So the proposed Dam will be like “a giant battery”. The “flooding of the beautiful Peace River Valley is very much connected to the destruction of hundreds of rivers across the province, all to export [energy] to fuel air conditioners in California.”

canola farm“The Peace River Valley is a very special area, both because of its ecological importance and also because it’s the best agricultural area in northern Canada,” Tria continued. The farms produce melons and other highly marketable foods.

The proposed Site C Dam would flood the Valley. One side of the river is farmland, and the other side is old growth boreal forest. Not only is the forest good for helping to prevent climate change. “The Valley is also known as the Peace Valley Break, and it’s the only major “east west valley in that area and it’s a key part needed for the connectivity between the north part of the Yellowstone Yukon conservation range and the southern part.” It’s used a lot for crossing the range by grizzly bears and elk, and is an important unfragmented stretch of land between Yellowstone and the Yukon. “You need big tracts of land for animals to be able to migrate, for genetic diversity, to be able to adapt to changes that come up”. Tria continued. “Losing this valley would cut off the north part from the south part, and will impact the entire vision for conservation that environmental groups have been working on for the last fifty years.”

For humans, food security is going to become more important. “So flooding some of the best agricultural land in northern BC is very counter intuitive,” Tria commented. “Once flooded, you’re never going to get land of that quality back.”

solar energy“B.C. Hydro’s own reports say that for the next 20 years, we can meet most of our [energy] demand through conservation,” Tria pointed out. The exception are areas that will be required for industrial extraction of natural gas and coal, which are old energy standbys which should be replaced with clean energy.

Twice before the proposed Site C dam has been stopped because the BC Utilities Commission said that “Site C should not be built until all other options have been weighed and gone through. And we still haven’t explored our options.” We should invest in solar power and geothermal and other green energies that don’t have the same environmental impact as a mega dam. The proposal is still in “stage 3 of a 5 stage process, and the next stage is the environmental assessment process, so within the next couple of months [there will be] all these questions around impact and how you mitigate that.”

“Now is the time for people to speak which is why we are going on the speaking tour.” Having “an environmental group such as the Wilderness Committee, partnering with the First Nations (who see the impact in their traditional hunting and fishing grounds as a direct violation of their treaty rights), and with farmers is a partnership you don’t see a lot”.

“There’s still a lot of opportunity for the public to have a say.” The Wilderness Committee is hosting 8 educational events around B.C. over the next few weeks about the Site C dam. Check out the details on their website.

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Alison Wheatley

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