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Posted: February 28, 2021

Say good-bye to another river killed by industry and politics

“Perceptions,” by Gerry Warner

Op-Ed Commentary

So, the Site C dam goes ahead. Another free-flowing B.C. river is converted into a giant reservoir with a sole purpose to generate electricity to feed the gaping maw of industry and the carbon-belching factories that will pump even more deadly climate changing carbon into our already overloaded atmosphere and everyone will live happily ever after.

Or so the theory goes.

And what will be lost? Glad you asked because in the end we’ll be the ones who lose and our loss will be catastrophic, namely our way of life. Quite possibly life itself. Let me explain.

Site C on the Peace River is a criminally wrong location to build a dam, especially a dam of that size.

Even Premier John Horgan acknowledged that when he made the go-ahead announcement last week. Horgan admitted what geologists, soil experts and geo-technical engineers have been telling successive B.C. governments for years, namely the site on which the mammoth dam is to be built is unstable and special measures will have to be taken to ensure the dam will be safe and no one can say for sure if the dam will ever be safe.

Last December, the B.C. government approved $10 billion in emergency measures to boost stability on the right bank of the Peace River which anchors the dam. Landslides and earthquakes are a regular occurrence in the Site C area and in November 2018 a 4.5 magnitude quake shook the area around the dam so hard that dam workers were ordered evacuated. Natural gas fracking also goes on in the Peace River region with thousands of minor quakes related to the drilling recorded in 2017 and 2018 according to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

Given all this, how did the Site C project get started in the first place?

Political chicanery by successive B.C. governments is the best answer to that. On two different occasions, the BC Utilities Commission, the approving agency for dams, recommended against the project largely for safety reasons and because Site C power wasn’t needed. But former Liberal Premier Gordon Campbell got around that by having legislation passed exempting Site C from the review process. Neat trick!

And trick it was. There’s no other way to describe it. The next bit of political chicanery occurred under former Liberal Premier Christy Clark when she announced her $100 billion “Prosperity Fund” for the province in 2013, which was based on building the Site C dam in order to provide power for three LNG plants to be built in the province by 2020 and several more on the drawing board. Clark even claimed her “Prosperity Fund” would eliminate the province’s debt of $56 billion at the time and reduce provincial taxes for everyone. It was all piffle, of course.

The next major event in what could be best described as the Site C scam came when NDP Premier John Horgan had his “Come to Jesus Moment” and announced Dec. 11, 2017 that after opposing Site C for years when he was the opposition leader he’d decided with “a heavy heart” that the controversial dam had to go ahead. I want to stress that this is not a project that we favoured. It’s not a project that we would have started, but we’re three years in.” In now for $16 billion. Shame!

And there you have the whole tawdry tale of political chicanery and opportunism leading to the announcement Friday that the much-maligned Site C dam on the Peace River will be completed after all. And who is the big loser? That’s us, of course, the people of B.C. who will lose 57,000 acres of prime agricultural and forest land when we need it the most not to mention the adverse effects the flooding will have on hundreds of animal, plant and fish species in the three-times flooded Peace Valley.

But biggest loser of all will be the aboriginal members of the Treaty 8 Tribal Association which has identified 337 archeological sites to be impacted by the dam and the loss of culture itself when the ground is literally flooded from under your feet.

In a statement released on the project, Treaty 8 said: “The Peace River Valley is a special and unique place and cannot be replaced. The impacts of the project are significant and far-reaching and cannot be mitigated.”

The wisdom of Elders. Don’t you think it’s time we started listening?

– Gerry Warner is a retired journalist, who still decries the flooding of his Columbia River homeland near Castlegar.

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