The destruction of 20 homes will benefit the rest of the province, according the Environmental Impact report on the Site C project.
Site C’s 83 kilometre reservoir will flood at least 3,800 hectares of farmland and require realignment of Highway 29 between Hudson’s Hope and Fort St. John, meaning the displacement of at least 20 families.
“When we compare one source of generation versus the other, this particular project, provides just about the best possible cost to the ratepayer of B.C. at $87 to $95 a megawatt hour,” said David Conway, community relations manager for BC Hydro.
An approximate total of 100 “land holdings” will be affected, 30 of them homes. The study, released Monday, concludes that 10 households will be forced to move away from the area, and another 10 will have to relocate to another position on their own property. The remaining 10 may not have to move.
If they did, they would be compensated for the cost to make that move, according to Conway. The company will also fix lost driveways, fences, and other structures changed by the flooding.
The loss of farmland would be mitigated by funds set up through the Peace River Regional District and enhancements to farms in the area to increase productivity, added Siobhan Jackson, environmental and social issues manager.
“Of that, we’ve done some further analysis and a lot of that land is on the islands or south bank where there’s no roads to get it, for example. So about half of that we consider realistically able to be used now or in the future. Of that, there’s about 540 hectares that are currently being used for cultivated purposes.”
She added BC Hydro also considered what crops were grown for food, and said the net effect of the project would ensure there would be no change to the region’s ability to feed itself using enhancements paid for by the agricultural compensation fund.
However, Arlene Boon, who has been told she would have to move, said there is no mitigating the stress these projects place on residents. She said she will lose her home, her farm, her business and her livelihood.
“If you had something you really loved, no dollar value would equate for the value you put on it. That’s what this valley is to the whole area – priceless,” Boon said.
She said many people built their dream homes in the valley and will not be willing to leave.
“I won’t go willingly,” she said. “I think anybody that’s living in this valley right now is intending to die here. We all live in this valley because we love it and this is where we want to retire. And I would think most of the families that are left here that haven’t sold out don’t want to go anywhere else.
“No dollar value dropped on our kitchen table is going to be satisfactory for us to pick up and move when our place is not for sale.
“They’re going to kill lots of things. Wildlife, the spirits of the humans and probably humans too,” Boon said.
“Stress from this kind of thing creates all kinds of health problems. What my husband and I go through here on a daily basis thinking about this project and the black cloud that’s hanging over our heads, I can guarantee you I’d be a lot healthier if this project was not happening.
“Dave Conway is not going to be able to pay for my health care. There’s going to be a price to pay and it’s priceless. Life is priceless. I don’t know how Mr. Conway’s going to mitigate the lives at risk.”
The project is supposed to answer a 40 per cent increase in electricity demand over the next 20 years. Projections put Site C production enough to power 465,000 homes for 100 years. It is expected to create 33,000 jobs and contribute $3.2 billion to B.C.’s GDP.
Conway said BC Hydro has considered alternative energy like natural gas and concluded the dam is the most cost-effective solution for B.C. at $87 to $95 a megawatt hour.
While there are other energy alternatives, Conway said that this is the right option for the province: “So there are other options there but there are things that make them less attractive.”
He added that the dam taps into a resource “that will last for over 100 years.”
Vocal opponents in the region, like teacher Rick Koechl, asked why hydro power is the best plan when natural gas extraction is so close by and, he said, cheaper based on his calculations and compared with a new natural gas electricity generator in Alberta called Shepard Energy Centre.
“They [Shepard] are producing electricity at roughly $13 a megawatt hour with natural gas,” Koechl said, $74 to $80 cheaper than Site C. He also said Shepard will be built in three years, cost only $1.3 billion, produce 6,500 gigawatt hours a year versus Site C’s 5,100 and occupy 60 acres versus Site C’s $7.9 billion and 23,000 to 25,000 acres.
He also said the impact report doesn’t account for greenhouse gas emissions during the building phase.
“This is not clean energy project when you look at the 10-year period,” Koechl said. “You’ve got the building phase with thousands of diesel-burning vehicles on the road for 10 years, effectively. You’ll have 3.2 million cubic metres of concrete, each of which produces 1.25 tons of carbon dioxide. Along with the building materials, they’re burning 1.5 million cubic metres of debris wood from the reservoir itself.”