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Citizens make up mind on Site C

The length of the divide between opinions about the Site C project was just about as far as the distances some people travelled to let their opinions be known at a recent consultation meeting in Dawson Creek.


The length of the divide between opinions about the Site C project was just about as far as the distances some people travelled to let their opinions be known at a recent consultation meeting in Dawson Creek.

Last January, BC Hydro issued an environmental impact statement on its proposed Site C hydroelectric dam. On Wednesday, dozens gathered at the Best Western in Dawson Creek to express their opinions or learn more about the project.

Ellis Howard, who lives near Tumbler Ridge, said the hydroelectric dam would be of great benefit to the area.

"I think it would be a whole lot better than having a nuclear plant, " he said. "I enjoy the clean energy aspect and the amount of electricity we'll get out on a consistent basis."

But others said they believed the project would be disastrous to the Peace. At a Fort St. John consultation session, protesters picketed the events, holding up signs and circling around the room.

"It was very peaceful and non-disruptive and they had a point of view," said Linda Jones, who works for the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency

While he did not hold up a protest sign, Dawson Creek meeting attendee Larry Freeman was also opposed to the project. Freeman, who lives in Dawson Creek but regularly fishes near Hudson's Hope on the Peace River, believed Site C would be a "disaster."

"I'm not opposed to a hydroelectric dam for the right place," he said. "We don't need it, and it's in the wrong place."

Instead, he would like to see the money that may be spent on Site C go into other energy initiatives, such as solar power.

While BC Hydro has touted the number of jobs the project would bring into the Peace Region, Freeman is not so convinced. "It's a stupid boom-and-bust thing again," he said. "We don't need more boom and bust; we need sustained stuff up here."

Despite BC Hydro's claims otherwise, he believed that the mud banks are going to go into the dam and eventually into the river.

"It's going to wash them down river for years and years," he said. "It's going to go down into the Peace and it'll just be mud."

Another attendee, Patsy Nagel, also was opposed to the project. "There's a lot of wonderful farmland that's going underwater, and we'll never be able to use it," she said. "It'll be completely gone once you flood it. That's really a crime."

She also did not feel her opinions were being heard by environmental regulators.

"They don't listen," she said. "They just act as though we're something wrong with our heads, whereas I feel there's something wrong with theirs."

Others were still unsure about the issue. Wendel Beafus, who lives near the community of Keg River in northwestern Alberta, was there to learn more information about the project.

"I live along the river and I farm on the Peace River, and I just want to see the pros and cons of it," he said. "I'm affected by flooding on the river I rely on the ice conditions because I rely on it to get across it on the winter."

Despite the information, he was still unsure about what to think.

"I don't have a definite yes or no," Beafus added. "I don't like the idea of damming a river, but I like it better than building a nuclear power plant. There may be better ways than this."

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office are still looking for public opinion on the Site C project. Anyone who wants to comment should e-mail SiteCReview@ceaa-acee.gc.ca or send a fax to 250-356-7477.

Residents can also write Linda Jones at the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, 22nd Floor, 160 Elgin Street, Ottawa, Ont, K1A 0H3. These written opinions should include the Site C reference number, 63919.

After this is done, the government will review the statement, then send it to a joint review panel. If it proceeds past both these points, another consultation for 30 days could be done between the fall or winter of 2013 or 2014. Afterward, the report will be sent to the government for provincial and Federal approval.