Campbell's 2002 hydroelectric mandate, Neufeld's federal senate posting, and BC Hydro's premature Site C business information sessions aim to make the Peace River Valley no part of Beautiful British Columbia.
Past-premier Campbell had tunnel vision towards dam-generated electricity. In the Campbell government's 2002 Energy Plan, BC Hydro was prohibited from creating any new power generation facilities, with the exception of Site C in the Peace River Valley, subject to Cabinet approval. No thanks to this hydroelectric mandate for the past ten years BC Hydro has focused valuable time and resources on the research, planning and promotion of Site C; while practically ignoring research into alternate forms of electricity such as wind, solar, geothermal and natural gas.
In 2008, then BC Minister of Energy and Mines Richard Neufeld -- a hard seller of Site C -- was appointed as a senator in Ottawa. I believe that this posting was no more than a ploy to win federal approval of Site C and to convince his caucus that the project was good for Canada. In fact, if the battle to save the valley should be lost, there is a good chance that the unsightly reservoir would be named Neufeld Lake (as Williston Lake) and the dam itself Campbell Dam (as in Bennett Dam).
Now the BC government and BC hydro are proceeding undemocratically with the Stage 3 Environmental & Regulatory Review. In late November and early December, BC Hydro hosted information sessions (as far south as Vancouver) for businesses interested in bidding on portions of the project. According to BC Hydro's commercial manager, BC Hydro is intending to put contracts into place for initial works as early as 2012. These actions are premature, for it is still two years before approval could even possibly be gained to go to Stage 4, Detailed Design & Procurement.
Today, thanks to the private sector's significant advancements in natural gas research, there is no economic sense in building an $8 billion damn (which will last merely 100 years at best), ruining a fertile valley, and devastating an important ecosystem when the equivalent power (and 300 years-worth of it) can be generated by an investment of $1.2 billion in natural gas generation. We must all start thinking tomorrow -- not always today. We must preserve the picturesque and natural Peace River Valley: it is of utmost importance for generations of people to come.
I firmly believe that Site C is a folly that can be stopped, especially with the mounting opposition to its very unstable dam site; however, the handling of Site C is not correct government. We all, the people of this province, are advisors to the elected few who become our dictators. For the betterment of public preservation and the good of the Peace River Valley, this has to change. It is my New Year's wish that the government and BC Hydro will accept the mistakes they have made, say No to the Site C Folly and refocus their resources on alternative sources of electricity.