A group of environmental activists in British Columbia, calling themselves “Rising Tide: Vancouver – Coast Salish Territories”, recently made a visit to communities in northern BC dealing with resource “mega-projects.” Their initial focus were oil and gas pipelines and “fracking”, or fractured drilling for oil and gas.
However, when they arrived in Fort St John, BC, they found a large and seemingly growing opposition to BC Hydro’s proposed Site C dam on the Peace River. They wrote about their encounter for the Vancouver Media Coop: Site C would require the flooding of approximately 5,340 hectares of land and over 100 km of river valley along the Peace River and its tributaries. This would include over 3,000 hectares of wildlife habitats, heritage sites, and “Class One” and “Class Two” agricultural land. Ranchers, farmers, and residents are very aware that the Peace River Valley is incredibly unique with its long growing season and ability to provide “a hundred mile diet for local residents given the valley’s microclimate,” says Andrea from PVEA. Ken (PEVEA board member) mentioned that “you can even grow cantaloupe!” Agricultural land and wildlife habitat in the area would be decimated, and numerous families would be forced out of their homes and off their land if this project were to go through.
What is troubling still, is that both BC Hydro and the province are very aware of these impacts “but don’t seem to care,” says Morrison. She explains how the environmental assessment (EA) acknowledges the damage the dam could cause but has no plans to mitigate these impacts. Even if the impacts were not acknowledged in the EA, people do not have to look far to understand the potential impacts.
The WAC Bennett dam was constructed in 1967 and is located 23 km upstream away from the proposed Site C dam and has caused flooding, forced people out of their homes, destroyed agricultural lands, and changed the climate of the region causing stronger winds as far as Prince George located at least a 5 hour drive away. Additionally Site C would destroy First Nations burial sites. This is definitely not history worth repeating.
As residents of the Peace-Athabasca Delta are well aware, hydro developments on the Peace can have major impacts downstream. In Issues 1 & 2, we wrote about effects of development on muskrat populations and the amount of water flowing down the Peace at different times of the year. Another major hydro dam on the Peace would certainly cause impacts in Fort Chipewyan, and other communities along the Peace.
What do you think? Let us know. We’d like to include a longer report on Site C dam in Issue 3, and want to hear from you.
Jonathan Ventura is the web assistant with One River, Many Relations. His formal education in environmental policy & law, as well as his passion and experience in community based research and mobilization brings a unique perspective to the project.