This week, after Premier Christy Clark announced the approval of the controversial Site C dam, the Council of Canadians expressed its indignation over the B.C. government's environmental short-sightedness.
BC Hydro would be building its third dam on the Peace River, flooding 5,550 hectares of land over an 83-kilometre stretch of valley. Site C would flood 78 First Nations heritage sites, including burial grounds and places of cultural and spiritual significance.
"This is an ill-advised and incredibly stupid decision the Province has made regarding the Site C Project. BC Hydro has failed to make its case in terms of future energy demands and have not adequately outlined an economic business case for construction and repayment of the most expensive capital project in the history of B.C.," stated Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs. " Further to this, the dam, associated structures and rights-of-ways will run directly through the heart of Treaty 8 First Nations territories and will have devastating impacts on Treaty rights of Treaty 8 First Nations. The project will gravely impact the ability of Treaty 8 communities way of life in exercising their treaty-protected constitutionally-enshrined rights to hunt, fish, trap, and harvest across their lands."
The Site C Dam would create the single largest loss of land in the 40-year history of the province's Agricultural Land Reserve -- drowning or severely impacting over 30,000 acres of farming land. The dam will flood 107 square kilometres of valley bottoms and destroy wetlands that support migratory bird flocks. When combined with the rapidly growing industrial footprint in the Peace region, Site C will contribute to the loss of more than half the habitat for sensitive species such as grizzly bears, wolverines and caribou.
Maude Barlow, National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians, was particularly concerned about the decision's impact on First Nations communities. "We are deeply disappointed by the B.C. government's short-sighted decision. We stand in solidarity with Treaty 8 First Nations whose treaty rights will be violated with this project," said Barlow. "But this affects everyone in the region -- farmers, residents and scientists alike."
Site C would add 150,000 tones of greenhouse gas emissions to B.C.'s carbon footprint, the equivalent of putting 27,000 additional cars on the road each year. "Today's decision cements a 'carbon corridor' in Western Canada," said Emma Lui, Water Campaigner with the Council of Canadians. "With fracking projects, LNG terminals and pipeline networks across the province, B.C. is hindering Canada from genuine climate leadership and water stewardship."
In May, the joint federal-provincial environmental assessment panel made no clear recommendation for or against the project, but did state that the need for the project was not clear, recommended that other alternatives such as geothermal energy be examined, and raised concerns about the economics of the project.
In their media response to the Site C decision, the Peace Valley Environment Association (PVEA) had this to say: "Approving Site C is the worst financial decision the province has ever made. It will leave us with a legacy of debt and destruction. Future generations will be shaking their heads in wonderment at the poor judgment of our government when, in time, they address the huge, costly mess that has been left for them to clean up." PVEA also added: "Since the conclusion of the hearings on Site C, Clean Energy BC as well as the Canadian Geothermal Association both provided the provincial governments with detailed information stating that alternative energy projects could better meet the needs of the province. Their information demonstrated a range of alternatives that were cost-competitive and in some cases, less expensive than Site C. Additionally, they pointed out that pursuing alternative power projects could provide more jobs across a variety of regions in the province. Further, the projects could be built on an as-needed basis, thus eliminating the risk of grossly overbuilding energy infrastructure as with Site C."
According to Damien Gillis of the Common Sense Canadian: "Even if the B.C. Liberal government decides today to approve the now $8.5 billion Site C dam, the project still faces some big legal hurdles -- based on mistakes the government made following the environmental review process. In a nutshell, Site C faces 6 different lawsuits from three different groups -- each bringing both provincial and federal challenges. The plaintiffs include Alberta First Nations, B.C. First Nations and the Peace Valley Landowners' Association (PVLA). Each case boils down to two main issues that linger from the Joint Review Panel's indecisive verdict on the project earlier this year. The first issue is the fact that the need for the project has still not been demonstrated. The second is the lack of fiscal due diligence surrounding the project."
The Site C hydroelectric dam is not clean, not green, not economical, and not in the public interest. This project must be opposed if we are to protect freshwater resources, fertile farmlands, food security, and respect Indigenous rights and local communities in the Peace Region. Communities have said "no" to the Site C dam for over 30 years. From the courts to the streets to the mighty Peace River, the fight continues.
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