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.