Old Fort residents not pleased with BC Hydro

BC Hydro is in hot water with a group of local property owners.

Peace Region resident Jared Giesbrecht said he has contacted a lawyer because of the impacts Old Fort Road residents would face during construction of the Site C dam.

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“It’s in the works right now, and we’re hoping to move ahead pretty quick,” said Giesbrecht. “The interest is there, it’s just a matter of getting the logistics, contributions and getting the finances together and getting it all lined up.”

The province has said it plans to move forward with the dam as soon as relevant permits are granted, which will be located 7 kilometres from Fort St. John.

If construction goes ahead despite legal challenges, about 50 homes located along Old Fort Road would be impacted.

“During the construction phase there will be a massive workers camp parked just around the corner from our neighbourhood,” said Giesbrecht. “The traffic, dust, smoke and noise will make life in the Old Fort extremely unpleasant.”

The dam is currently facing multiple legal challenges.

Giesbrecht said Old Fort residents are displeased because they will not receive financial compensation for impacts on their community.

BC Hydro held a meeting with Old Fort residents last Tuesday.

Giesbrecht and other residents had attempted get the meeting with BC Hydro for years.

It was the first time BC Hydro sat down with Old Fort community members to talk about the dam's construction since the project was proposed in 2008.

When asked about mitigation measures for the homeowners, Dave Conway, BC Hydro spokesman for Site C, said that Hydro has already committed to some measures.

“[At earlier meetings, Old Fort residents] told us they were concerned about things like traffic volume, the narrowness of the road,” he said. “We’re upgrading 12 kilometres of road to a higher standard.”

Conway also said they will add a shoulder to the road, and will restrict operations during school bus hours.

“We’re avoiding construction delays during peak hour periods,” he added.

When asked about the possibility of a siren to warn of a dam breach, Conway said they are still looking at dam safety management plans, and those would need to be approved by local governments.

“[A siren is] something we would look at, absolutely.”

Nonetheless, Giesbrecht says the steps BC Hyrdo have taken so far at addressing the concerns of the community aren't enough. 

“We can’t get BC Hydro to care about the harm to us, never mind take any tangible steps to mitigate or compensate for our loss,” he said.

 “We couldn’t even get a committal on a siren to warn us if there’s a breach.”

 reporter@ahnfsj.ca

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