Peace River region rejects another hydro dam
By Scott Simpson
Northeast British Columbia won’t yield to BC Hydro’s Site C mega-hydroelectric project without a fight.
Directors of the Peace River regional district have voted to recommend the B.C. government reject Hydro’s request to undertake geotechnical surveys of potential locations for the estimated $6-billion Site C dam and its reservoir.
Hydro needs the studies — which will investigate the stability and composition of the earth in the vicinity of the proposed dam site — as part of preparatory work prior to any decision about whether or not to proceed with the estimated 900-megawatt project.
It is asking B.C.’s integrated lands management branch for a 10-year licence of occupation for the area. Hydro already has two dams and reservoirs upstream of Site C.
The district wants “compensation, mitigation and monitoring program measures” undertaken before Hydro is allowed to proceed with any investigative work — including consideration for the loss of several regional parks, farmland and archaeological sites that would be inundated by the creation of a reservoir with a 9,300-hectare surface area.
That’s the same position the district took in 1981 when Site C was previously studied in detail — and Fort St. John Mayor Bruce Lantz noted that although Hydro is engaged in a public consultation process, there has been no action on the region’s concerns in the 28 years since that position was taken.
“Nothing has really changed, and Hydro hasn’t done anything about it,” Lantz said in a telephone interview on Tuesday. “They’ve not come forward and talked about mitigation or compensation or any of those issues, and those are fairly important to the people who live and work in the area.”
Lantz, a director on the regional district board, said the projected dam and flood areas are “littered with historic, recreational and cultural situati ons that need to be addressed.
“I’m amazed in this day and age with concerns about food security we are wiping out 5,200 hectares of ‘class-one’ and ‘class-two’ agricultural land.”
Lantz said a Hydro promise to create a recreational area on the ensuing Site C reservoir is dubious — noting that during public information meetings last year Hydro representatives acknowledged that it would take at least 20 years for the slopes of the reservoir to stabilize enough to allow public access.
Peace River South MLA Blair Lekstrom, minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, said he was “a little surprised” that regional district members didn’t simply “pick up the phone” to ask him about Hydro’s intentions.
“This is not about building the dam. This is about the ability to get in on some land and do some test holes, look at core samples to see if there is proper material if the decision ever was made to go ahead,” Lekstrom said.
He said it was a “reasonable request” for regional district board members to raise the issue of compensation for the impact of Site C, should it proceed, and that “there are opportunities to look at that.”
Lekstrom noted that the region gets compensation for resource extraction, notably oil and gas activity, through B.C.’s Fair Share program, but said there is nothing in the northeast that matches the Columbia Basin Trust program to assist communities in southeast B.C. for the impact of dams on the Columbia River system.
“I think it’s definitely a discussion we want to hold with the region if a decision is made to move on this.”
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