By Andy Sinats
The flooding and destruction of a river valley ecosystem cannot be considered a green solution to meeting energy demand. The following are just a few of the many concerns about the construction of another dam on the Peace River in British Columbia:
1. The provincial government’s Energy Plan states that “all new electricity generation projects will have zero net greenhouse gas emissions.” The Site C reservoir will not have zero net greenhouse gas emissions. Reservoir creation results in methane production, a potent contributor to climate change.
2. Reservoir creation results in mercury bioaccumulation. To avoid large increases in both greenhouse gas production and methyl mercury accumulation, C.A. Kelly et al. recommend that areas of low relief and wetlands should not be flooded. Neither of these recommendations can be accomplished if the Peace River is flooded at Site C.
3. Building Site C will flood much of the only Class 1 farmland in northern BC, including land within the Agricultural Land Reserve. This is the only land capable of growing many vegetables that would otherwise have to be imported.
4. Further damming the Peace will destroy high-capacity wildlife habitat that cannot be replaced by other habitats in the northeast. The many islands with their back channels that make up this section of the Peace River Valley are vital to wildlife.
5. The Site C dam would destroy a favourite recreational area. If this project were proposed in the Lower Mainland, the public would never stand for the loss of such a high-quality recreational area.
6. Much of the area that would be flooded and otherwise affected by the Site C project includes First Nations traditional lands.
The Energy Plan is flawed and has not allowed a serious examination of other greener ways to meet the province’s energy needs.
There should be some areas that are just too precious to destroy. When this project was last examined, through a formal British Columbia Utilities Commission Hearing in 1982, it was rejected as unjustified.
Now, a quarter of a century later, when our ability to use energy ef- ficiently is so much greater, as is our understanding of the value of river ecosystems, why is Site C the best option? Will there be an equivalent level of public scrutiny this time around? Surely such a unique valley cannot be destroyed without examining all the available options.
To quote the late Leo Rutledge, Peace Valley pioneer and long-time advocate for the Peace: “If a government has no respect for its land base, its very earth, then, it has no real respect for its people or anything else.”