The Peace River Regional District says the province must give the highest level of consideration to a BC Hydro plan to haul tonnes of dam material to Site C by truck.
In the latest missive to the BC Environmental Assessment Office, Chair Brad Sperling says the proposal is a material and complex change to the project. The letter calls for wide-ranging public engagement, as well as technical and community advisory committees to be formed to address concerns from the Regional District and residents.
“[We] wish to ensure that the process is paced to allow for meaningful input, research and analysis and full and fair consideration of all input received,” Sperling wrote in the Feb. 3 letter to Project Assessment Director Kimberly Walters.
“The proposed amendment to allow hauling of 85th Ave. construction material to the Site C dam construction location is an issue of high importance to the Regional District and our residents.”
The 85th Avenue industrial lands next to Fort St. John are being excavated for glacial till, needed to construct the earth fill dam core and approach channel lining.
A five-kilometre-long conveyor has already been built to ship the materials down to the Peace River, but BC Hydro is seeking amendments to its environmental certificate to haul the materials by by dump truck if the conveyor is shut down.
The PRRD has already criticized the plan for lacking enough detail, and which estimates up to 122 trucks per hour on the Old Fort, 240 and 269 Roads up to 12 hours a day, and for up to seven months per year from 2021 through 2023.
The PRRD says this will impact everything from greenhouse gas emissions to local government revenues, to outdoor recreation and use of nearby lands by aboriginal groups for traditional purposes.
Directors have also expressed their concerns over dust suppression, traffic safety, emergency access, and the condition of the roads once the hauling program is completed.
Appended to Sperling's letter were others from residents, which called the BC Hydro proposal "another huge imposition."
"We as residents become secondary citizens to PRHP/BC HYDRO construction, which is ridiculous considering we are the residents that pay taxes every year as property owners not just temporary, like Site C," wrote Rainer Steck & Charlotte Francoeur, who live on 240 Road. "We were repeatedly told in the beginning of all this that there would be NO IMPOSITION, NO INTERUPTIONS TO OUR DAILY LIVES and yet that's exactly what happens over & over again."
Others wrote about travel delays and harrowing "near misses" with construction traffic already.
"I have also sustained vehicle damages that nearly blinded my son due to shards of glass flying throughout the cab of my newly purchased 100000$ truck," wrote Old Fort resident Scott Logan. "You guys have no respect or concern for the safety of the residents of old fort community."
Others questioned whether heavy rainfall again would put the conveyor system under water.
"At the beginning of consultation with the City we were told that the Old Fort residents would not be impacted by the Site C project. Well, I beg to differ. We have been subject to a plethora of effects from road construction, delays because of said construction, massive amounts of dust, noise, smoke to the point of athsma attacks, irregular and extremely high river water and the list goes on," wrote Paulette Blais, another Old Fort resident. "Now we will be contending with more delays on the road to add insult to injury. Is our time not valuable too?"
Sperling said there is sufficient interest from concerned residents to warrant a community advisory committee. He said a technical advisory committee of appointees with specialized expertise could identify alternatives to truck hauling, appropriately analyze risks, and review the effects on transportation and human health. Nominees for both committees would be forthcoming, he said.
“Making allowance for the complex and fundamental nature of the amendment request, as well as application of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, we anticipate that a determination by the BC Environmental Assessment Office on this application is at least a year away,” Sperling wrote.
The PRRD has been negotiating with BC Hydro for an agreement to address growing construction impacts on local services, including "substantial financial compensation" for landfilling and recycling, and lost property tax revenue.
Email Managing Editor Matt Preprost at email@example.com.