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NEWS: NDP’s Horgan slams Site C dam

John Horgan

John Horgan

CBC reports, “The proposed Site C dam in northeast British Columbia has a new projected price tag of almost $8 billion (up from less than $3 billion just five years ago), and has moved to the first stage of an environmental review.” Site C is a 60-metre tall dam proposed for the Peace River in British Columbia. It would include a 1,100-metre-long earthfill dam and concrete structures with a length of 300 metres. The reservoir behind the dam would be 83 kilometres long. The dam is proposed to be operational by 2020.

1. ESCALATING DOLLAR COSTS: The CBC report says, “BC NDP energy critic John Horgan doesn’t believe we’ve heard the end of the spiralling costs (before the dam’s projected completion date of 2020). ‘I’m not convinced we’re at the final figure today,’ said Horgan. ‘I think we’ve got a couple of billion dollars more to go before we’re done.’ Horgan added that the government’s decision last year to exempt Site C from scrutiny by the BC Utilities Commission could allow the project to become a multi-billion-dollar boondoggle.”

2. QUESTIONABLE ENVIRONMENTAL PROCESS: The Globe and Mail reports, “‘The environment assessment process appears to be a sham,’ (Horgan) said, since the Energy Minister has already given the project a green light. (Although the environmental assessment and community consultation has not begun, Energy Minister Rich Coleman vowed on the weekend that Site C will be built.)”

3. ENERGY TO FUEL FRACKING AND MINES: BC Local News reports, “Because the BC Liberal government exempted Site C and other big projects from independent review, it’s not clear if BC really needs the power to meet domestic supply, (Horgan) said.” In an article in the Georgia Straight, Wilderness Committee campaigner Tria Donaldson adds, “In the words of Roland Wilson, chief of the West Moberly First Nations: ‘British Columbians don’t need this power. It’s the natural gas and coal industries that need this power.’ …B.C.’s Hydro’s own reports show we can meet future demand increases with our current energy supply through modest conservation. …Energy Minister Rich Coleman has stated that Site C will help ‘power a new wave of industrial growth in northern B.C., from 100-year supply of natural gas in the Horn River and Montney shales and as many as six new mines’. Far from an investment in the future energy needs of B.C. families, Site C is an $8-billion taxpayer subsidy to provide cheap energy to the fossil fuel industry.”

4. ENVIRONMENTAL DESTRUCTION: Donaldson notes, “The valley (that would be flooded) is home to over 20 threatened species, including grizzly bears, bull trout, and great horned owls. If Site C dam goes ahead it would flood over 100 kilometres of river valley…and causing landslides as the banks of the reservoir erode over time. Gone would be the lush island chains that moose and other animals depend on for predator-free areas to raise their young. Gone would be the oldest boreal forests in the region, the critical life support for the region’s biodiversity. Gone would be the tributaries and the migratory routes that aquatic species like arctic grayling depend on. Site C would also flood over 11,000 acres of prime agricultural land, capable of growing enough garden vegetables to feed all of northern B.C. and the Yukon.”

5. GROWING OPPOSITION: David Suzuki writes, “In September, First Nations elders, youth, and elected officials, along with non-native farmers and ranchers, travelled 1,300 kilometres from the Peace Valley to Victoria to present the premier with a historic declaration opposing the dam. The document was signed by 23 First Nations from across B.C., Alberta, and the Northwest Territories. The declaration was wrapped in a traditional birch bark container, from trees growing in the flood zone of the proposed dam. And while neither Premier Campbell nor anyone from his government would meet with the delegation to accept their declaration, it was later formally introduced into the legislature by the NDP Opposition. Along with the provincial NDP, Donaldson also notes, “The Site C dam has been met with significant opposition from environmentalists, First Nations, farmers, and Peace Valley residents. In fact a strong coalition has stopped the project twice before, using logical arguments that prevail today: they can’t prove it is needed, and they can’t prove it is the best option.”

Media reports note, “Hydro says it’s submitted a project description report to federal and provincial environmental assessment agencies, and once the report is accepted the formal assessment will begin.”

For Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow’s commentary on the impact of large dams, please go to http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=7837.