Peace Valley

BC Hydro Tells Farmers Fighting Site C Dam to Vacate Property By Christmas

Peace Valley farmers and outspoken critics of the Site C dam Ken and Arlene Boon say BC Hydro intends to force them from their third-generation family farm by the end of this year even though the dam would not flood their land until 2024.

The Boons received the unexpected news from their lawyer, following a conversation the lawyer had with officials from BC Hydro’s Properties division.

It was a shocker,” Ken Boon, says. “We didn’t know they wanted us out by Christmas.”

Boon says if they refuse to sell their farm to BC Hydro it will be expropriated for the “re-alignment” of Highway 29 away from the Site C flood zone, a two-year construction project that BC Hydro says must begin in 2017.  

Site C Dam Permits Quietly Issued During Federal Election

Construction on the Site C dam on the Peace River

Former prime minister Stephen Harper’s government issued 14 permits for work on the $9 billion Site C dam during the writ period of the last election — a move that was offside according to people familiar with the project and the workings of the federal government.

“By convention, only routine matters are dealt with after the writ is dropped,” said Harry Swain, the chair of the Joint Review Panel that reviewed the Site C dam. “Permits and licences are only issued when a government considers the matter to be non-controversial and of no great public importance.”

Swain served for 22 years in the federal government, ending as deputy minister of Indian and Northern Affairs and later Industry. In an exclusive interview with DeSmog Canada last year, Swain said the B.C. government shouldn’t have moved ahead with construction on the dam until the demand case became clearer.

Old-Growth Threatened by Site C as Ecologically Important as Great Bear Rainforest, Former B.C. Biologist Says

The Peace Valley old-growth forest slated to be clear cut for the Site C dam is just as important, if not more ecologically significant, than the Great Bear Rainforest, says the wildlife biologist and retired provincial government manager who wrote B.C.’s management plan for the area.
 
“It’s more important from a biodiversity point of view because there’s far less of it,” Rod Backmeyer said in a phone interview.
 
“The boreal forest hasn’t had the high profile [of the Great Bear Rainforest]. You don’t get those classic giant trees with moss covered ground and logs under them that are so picturesque. It’s different here. It doesn’t mean that it has less value. It just doesn’t have that romantic flavour that some of the coastal old-growth has.”
 
The forest, on the south bank of the Peace River near its confluence with the Moberly River, surrounds an historic fort site where Peace Valley farmers and First Nations members have camped since New Year’s Eve. BC Hydro contractors built a logging bridge across the mouth of the Moberly during the Christmas holidays, but clear-cutting stopped when campers and their supporters, including First Nations elders, began to maintain a constant vigil near logging equipment.

David Suzuki: Paris Changed Everything, So Why Are We Still Talking Pipelines?

TransCanada Keystone Pipeline

This is a guest post by David Suzuki.

With the December Paris climate agreement, leaders and experts from around the world showed they overwhelmingly accept that human-caused climate change is real and, because the world has continued to increase fossil fuel use, the need to curb and reduce emissions is urgent.

In light of this, I don’t get the current brouhaha over the Trans Mountain, Keystone XL, Northern Gateway or the Energy East pipelines. Why are politicians contemplating spending billions on pipelines when the Paris commitment means 75 to 80 per cent of known fossil fuel deposits must be left in the ground?

Didn’t our prime minister, with provincial and territorial premiers, mayors and representatives from non-profit organizations, parade before the media to announce Canada now takes climate change seriously? I joined millions of Canadians who felt an oppressive weight had lifted and cheered mightily to hear that our country committed to keeping emissions at levels that would ensure the world doesn’t heat by more than 1.5 C by the end of this century. With the global average temperature already one degree higher than pre-industrial levels, a half a degree more leaves no room for business as usual.

B.C. Taxpayers Paid Millions for the Prime Farmland BC Hydro Will Flood with Site C Dam

Over the past four decades, B.C. taxpayers have footed a multi-million dollar bill for BC Hydro to purchase prime Peace Valley farmland in anticipation of building the Site C dam.

In 2012, the latest year for which figures are available, BC Hydro owned almost 1,000 hectares of Peace Valley farmland that would be affected by Site C, an area the size of two and a half Stanley Parks.

BC Hydro declined to reveal how much money it has spent buying farmland in the Peace Valley, but one report says the crown corporation shelled out $6.3 million on agricultural land purchases in the valley in the 11-year period from 1970 to 1981.

BC Hydro’s 2012 holdings included 740 hectares of farmland in the Agricultural Land Reserve and 250 hectares of farmland outside the ALR. In 2012, the crown corporation owned more Class 1 to Class 3 farmland within Site C’s “Project Activity Zone” than all the individual farming families combined. BC Hydro has also purchased an unknown number of hectares of farmland outside Site C’s “Project Activity Zone.” 

Peace Valley farmers say BC Hydro’s ownership of some of the valley’s best farmland, coupled with a 1957 flood reserve, has discouraged local farmers from growing much more than hay, wheat, canola and forage crops, which require far fewer investments than fruit and vegetable production, even though the valley has among the province’s most fertile soils, capable of growing a wide array of produce.

B.C. MLAs Debate Site C, Months After Project’s Controversial Approval

Trees are already being felled in the Peace River Valley and site preparation is underway for the $8.8-billion Site C dam, which was given the go-ahead by the B.C. government in December, but on Wednesday MLAs spent the afternoon debating the megaproject.

The belated debate on the controversial project, which will flood 107 kilometres of the Peace River and its tributaries creating an 83-kilometre-long reservoir, was sparked by a resolution endorsing the project put forward by Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett.

The motion, which, as expected, sailed through with 39 votes in favour and 29  votes against, said the House supports Site C because “it represents the most affordable way to generate 1,100 megawatts of clean reliable power; and the Site C Clean Energy Project will create jobs for thousands of British Columbians; and the Site C Clean Energy Project has been the subject of a thorough environmental review process” — all points disputed by Site C critics, including First Nations, area residents and farmland advocates.

EXCLUSIVE: Site C Dam ‘Devastating’ for British Columbians, Says Former CEO of BC Hydro

Site C dam flood reserve level

In an exclusive interview with DeSmog Canada, former BC Hydro CEO Marc Eliesen says ratepayers will face a “devastating” increase in their electricity bills if the Site C dam is built and emphasizes there is no rush to build new sources of power generation in B.C.

With Site C, BC Hydro ratepayers will be facing a devastating increase of anywhere between 30 and 40 per cent over the next three years,” Eliesen told DeSmog Canada in his first interview on the subject.

There’s no rush. There’s no immediate need for Site C or any other alternative energy,” he said.

Eliesen’s comment about the lack of immediate need for the power echoes statements made by Harry Swain, the chair of the panel that reviewed the Site C hydro dam for the provincial and federal governments. In March, Swain told DeSmog Canada the B.C. government should have held off on making a decision on the dam.

‘Unprecedented’ Comments from Chair of Site C Dam Panel Raised in B.C. Question Period

Site C dam

Revelations from DeSmog Canada’s exclusive sit-down interview with Harry Swain, the chair of the panel that reviewed the $8.8 billion Site C dam, were raised during question period in the B.C. legislature on Thursday.

Andrew Weaver, Oak Bay-Gordon Head MLA and Deputy Leader of the B.C. Green Party, asked the government about the economics of the Site C dam project in light of Swain’s unprecedented interview.

Swain, a former Deputy Minister of Industry Canada and Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, is thought to be the first review panel member in Canadian history to speak out about a project in this manner. His comments to DeSmog Canada prompted follow-up by the Globe and Mail, CBC, CKNW and CFAX.

Mr. Swain was very clear that the government was rushed in approving Site C, and British Columbians will pay for their haste,” Weaver said during question period. “As Mr. Swain said: ‘Wisdom would have been waiting for two, three, four years to see whether the projections they’ — that’s BC Hydro — ‘were making had any basis in fact.’ That’s not exactly a glowing endorsement for the fiscal underpinning of Site C.”

‘Dereliction of Duty’: Chair of Site C Panel on B.C.’s Failure to Investigate Alternatives to Mega Dam

Harry Swain, chair of Site C panel

Part 1 of DeSmog Canada’s exclusive sit-down interview with Harry Swain, the man who chaired the panel tasked with reviewing BC Hydro’s Site C dam, sparked a firestorm of activity on Tuesday.

Energy Minister Bill Bennett responded to Swain’s critique in the Globe and Mail, the B.C. NDP issued a statement on Swain’s comments and an environmental law expert called the statements “unprecedented.”

Martin Olszynski, an assistant professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of Calgary, said Swain’s comments are extremely rare.  

To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time that a panel member has spoken about a previous report in this manner,” Olszynski, an expert in environmental assessment, said. “To my knowledge, it’s unprecedented.”

EXCLUSIVE: B.C. Government Should Have Deferred Site C Dam Decision, Says Chair of Joint Review Panel

Peace Valley Site C Dam

In his first interview on the Site C dam, the chair of the federal-provincial panel appointed to review Canada's largest current infrastructure project said the B.C. government was unwise to green-light the project without a review by the B.C. Utilities Commission and would have been better off to delay the decision by a few years.

There’s a whole bunch of unanswered questions, some of which would be markedly advanced by waiting three or four years,” Harry Swain told DeSmog Canada. “And you’d still be within the period of time, even by Hydro’s bullish forecasts, when you’re going to need the juice.”

Swain, a former deputy minister of Industry Canada and Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, spoke to DeSmog Canada on his own behalf, not on behalf of the panel. In a wide-reaching interview, Swain also described the province’s failure to investigate alternatives to the dam as a “dereliction of duty.”

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