BC Hydro says a piece of Peace valley land farmers and the Peace River Regional District want protected from the Site C reservoir is needed for fish habitat.
The company says it is required to develop 81 acres of shallow water habitat before filling the reservoir, and that a majority of land in the Wilder Creek area next to the Peace River where works are planned will not be affected.
In an Aug. 31 letter to the PRRD, Site C’s Community Relations Manager Dave Conway says 400 of the 550 acres in the area are above the reservoir’s high-water mark, and will not be affected by the creation of fish habitat.
“Any surplus lands above the reservoir impact lines in this location will be considered as part of BC Hydro’s surplus land disposal process once the effects of the reservoir are fully understood. This could result in the surplus being available through lease or sale for future agricultural purposes,” Conway wrote.
“The remaining 150 acres (61 ha) will be located below the high-water mark and affected by the creation of the reservoir, regardless of whether fish habitat is enhanced there or not.”
The PRRD raised its objections to BC Hydro’s plans in August in support of Wilder Creek Ranching, which has been farming the land for the last 30 years.
Blane Meek says the Class 1 soil has produced 92 bushels per acre of canola crop, high protein wheat, and up to 600 pounds per acre of alfalfa seed. He said a specially-built berm would allow the land to continue being farmed.
“The high quality of land in the valley with its climate and fertile soil, and aquifers should be used in the future for specialty crops, and future generations,” Meek wrote in a letter to Agriculture Minister Lana Popham.
“We always knew we would lose part of this land to flooding by Site C, but had hoped that we could buy the excess land or at the very least, continue to farm this very fertile soil.”
Conway drew a distinction between wetland and fish habitat compensation plans as part of the construction of the dam. In his letter to the PRRD, Conway wrote that the entire reservoir shoreline was studied to find sites suitable for fish habitat, including finding areas that minimized the loss of mature forest and cultivated land above the reservoir’s maximum operating levels.
“BC Hydro is not targeting Class 1 land for wetland compensation,” Conway wrote. “Further, we are working to minimize impacts to productive agricultural lands, to the degree that is feasible during construction.”
PRRD directors briefly discussed the letter from Conway at their Sept. 9 board meeting, and said they will continue a dialogue on the issue through its community liaison committee with BC Hydro.
Tom Summer, Alaska Highway News, Local Journalism Initiative. Email Tom at firstname.lastname@example.org