Site C concerns for Chetwynd

The potential side-effects of proposed Site C dam have caused two groups to express concern about the project, both industrial and environmental.

The District of Chetwynd sent a letter to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency saying that some items in Site C's environmental impact statement were 'inadequate' and On Friday, representatives of six First Nations bands in Alberta also registered major environmental concerns about the project, it has been reported.

For Chetwynd, the concerns related to transportation and the increased used of their municipality.

"The use of rail not only needs to be reconsidered, but needs to be selected as the primary source for the movement of goods and materials to the dam," according to their letter. "The costs for road rehabilitation following construction of the project will likely far exceed any cost savings realized during construction."

Currently, B.C. Hydro has proposed to build the Site C dam near Hudson's Hope. The project is expected to bring in thousands of workers and cost billions of dollars if approved.

Part of this project will involve bringing in materials from Highway 29, which passes through Chetwynd, to the proposed build site.

Rip-rap, which is a term describing material used to help contain water, would be carried from the West Pine Quarry west of Chetwynd, according to Chetwynd's submission.

According to the Site C environmental impact statement, 800,000 cubic metres - or approximately 300 Olympic-sized swimming pools - worth of rip-rap could be moved. This could potentially require 40,000 truckloads over an eight year period.

According to an e-mail included in Chetwynd's submission, some of the information was also looked over by a transportation engineer, David Cullen.

Cullen wrote that these rip-rap delivery trips "will place an excessive burden on the existing roadway infrastructure, and significantly add to the noise and comfort of the adjacent community."

He also wrote that the environmental impact statement did not take into account the arrival and departure from the camps as a result of one week on and five week off rotations. According to Cullen's estimates, this would work out to 30 trips a day through Chetwynd, in addition to the five trips per day identified earlier in the statement.

In information present in Site C's environmental impact statement, Tetra Tech, which provided a traffic analysis report, used early analyses by BC Hydro that indicated delivery by road would likely be cheaper than delivery by rail.

Other issues involve recreational opportunities. Chetwynd council asked B.C. Hydro to provide enhanced camping and recreational areas on the south bank near the dam, and that "open" public access overlooking the dam project from the south bank be provided. According to Chetwynd's submission, neither of these items were adequately addressed by B.C. Hydro.

Chetwynd council also identified what it said were "negative impacts," including certain losses of working forests, and guiding/trapping areas.

The Chetwynd council's statement also said that while it "welcomed" increased recreational activities on the newly opened south bank areas, it could lead to an increase of emergency responder calls and future search and rescue responses for visitors who may become lost or hurt.

However, Chetwynd council did not universally pan Site C. In their letter, said they recognized that there would be short-term and long-term opportunities arising, new community investment, and continued affordable power in B.C.

In a survey, 11 of 16 Chetwynd residents who responded were in favour of Site C.

Further east, Alberta bands felt that the environmental impact statement did not include enough consideration into effects on the Alberta side, according to reports.

Melody Lepine, a spokeswoman for the Misikew Cree First Nation, was quoted as saying that that B.C. Hydro should look at the effects that Site C could cause on the Peace-Athabasca Delta in northeastern B.C.

According to B.C. Hydro's impact statement, some authors have concluded that there have been changes in the Delta caused by existing facilities. This view is also backed up by an Indian Claims Commission decision made in 1998 that said that the W.A.C. Bennett Dam damaged the Delta.

However, according to the impact statement, other authors have said that other changes, such as global warming, could have affected the Delta.

The statement also claims that the changed flow of the Peace River during certain months of the year that could come with Site C would not hurt the Delta's hydrology.

The government is expected to decide whether or not B.C. Hydro's impact statement is satisfactory this spring. Afterwards, a joint review panel will determine if the statement is sufficient. A final decision on Site C could be reached as early as fall 2014.

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