Sarah Cox

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Sarah Cox is a writer and strategist based in Victoria, B.C. She spent a decade working in the environmental non-profit sector, including for Sierra Club BC and the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, and is now writing a book about the Site C dam in northern B.C. Sarah has won two Western Magazine Awards and a Vancouver Press Club Award, and has been nominated for two additional Western Magazine Awards, a Jack Webster award and a Canadian Association of Journalists magazine writing award. She has a Master’s in Political Science from York University, where she focused on Canadian foreign aid and economic development policy.

Logging Crew Mobilizes Near 'Irreplaceable' Wetland, Slated for Site C Flooding

Watson Slough near the Site C dam

A “landmark” wetland and birding hotspot in the Peace River Valley is slated to be destroyed by the Site C dam, after the B.C. government preserved it as a model conservation project.  

The area around Watson Slough, which provides habitat for two dozen bird, plant and amphibian species vulnerable to extinction, is scheduled for imminent logging by BC Hydro contractors in preparation for flooding the area for Site C. Preparations are being made for logging crews and security had arrived at Bear Flat near Watson Slough Wednesday morning in prepration for clear-cutting the Bear Flat/Cache Creek area.

Peace region residents say logging the area around the slough this winter will prematurely rob them of a favourite outdoor spot, as treasured locally as Vancouver’s Stanley Park or Beacon Hill Park in Victoria. 

It’s discouraging,” Karen Goodings, a Peace River Regional District director, said in an interview. “Watson Slough is one of the landmarks of this area and I really believe it is irreplaceable.”

BC Hydro Shows Trump-Style Attacks on Media Can and Do Happen in Canada

When Donald Trump held his first news conference this month following his election as U.S. president, observers worldwide decried his shameless attack on the media and his critics.

In an onslaught against the press, Trump labelled CNN “terrible” and “fake news,” lambasted the digital-media powerhouse BuzzFeed as a “failing pile of garbage,” then turned his sights on the BBC, calling the news outlet, “another beauty,” and refusing to answer a reporter’s questions.

Could something similar ever happen in Canada? You bet it could.

In B.C., a slightly abridged version of Trump’s scorched-earth offensive against the media and his critics is already underway, led by BC Hydro, with disquieting consequences for the principles of freedom of expression and freedom of the press. 

Besties? BC Hydro and Premier’s Office Too Close for Comfort, Experts Suggest

Fast-tracking Site C dam construction before May’s provincial election is an unusual decision driven more by politics than need, according to a Canadian expert in Crown corporations who suggests the relationship between BC Hydro and the Premier’s office may be “too close for comfort.” 

Luc Bernier, the former head of the Institute of Public Administration of Canada, said Premier Christy Clark’s vow to push Site C past the “point of no return,” when B.C. has a surplus of electricity and Clark is still searching for a buyer for Site C’s power, leads him to believe that that “there’s too much politics around BC Hydro.”

What seems unusual to me is the idea of locking up this project before the provincial election,” said Bernier, who holds the Jarislowsky Chair in Public Sector Management at the University of Ottawa.

If B.C. doesn’t need the electricity for the next decade or so there’s no emergency to build it…The only emergency in this project is the coming election.”

Revealed: Inside the B.C. Government's Site C Spin Machine

BC Hydro officials and members of Premier Christy Clark and Energy Minister Bill Bennett’s offices were all involved in a coordinated attempt to discredit DeSmog Canada’s reporting on the $8.8 billion Site C hydroelectric dam, according to documents obtained through Freedom of Information requests.

The documents detail a flurry of e-mails following a DeSmog Canada story that quoted former BC Hydro CEO Marc Eliesen saying that Site C was proceeding without due diligence, would lead to escalating hydro rate increases and was “scheduled to become a big white elephant,” a story later referenced by the New York Times.

BC Hydro officials were concerned that major B.C. media would pick up on the DeSmog Canada story, based largely on a BC Hydro progress report to the B.C. Utilities Commission. That report noted that Site C had fallen behind on four out of seven key milestones and outlined project risks and reasons why Site C had spent more money than anticipated by the end of last March, while saying that the project’s overall forecast still remained on track.

BC Hydro Plans to Expropriate Farmers’ Home for Site C Before Christmas

BC Hydro plans to expropriate the home of Peace Valley farmers Ken and Arlene Boon before Christmas, following the couple’s refusal to sign over their top class farmland for the Site C dam, DeSmog Canada has learned.

The Boons said that the $8.8 billion dam could still be stopped and they are not budging from their third-generation family home, farmland, garden, greenhouse and workshop to make way for a Site C highway relocation until they are forced to leave.

Tweet: “We’re at peace with the idea of going to expropriation.” http://bit.ly/2hfZDhK @BCHydro #SiteC #bcpoli #cdnpoli We’re at peace with the idea of going to expropriation,” Ken Boon said in an interview.

Arlene and I agreed we didn’t want to sign anything over. It just goes against every bone in our bodies. They’ll have to take it from us.”

BC Hydro will seize the Boon’s farmhouse and 130 hectares of their land on or around December 16, according to the couple. They say they will be permitted to stay in their farmhouse as BC Hydro’s tenants until May 31, three weeks after the B.C. provincial election, and to farm their riverside fields for three more years even though BC Hydro will own the land.

I don’t think they wanted to kick us out during the election campaign,” said Boon.

First Nations Chiefs Say Site C Highway Route Will Desecrate Graves, BC Hydro Disagrees

BC Hydro archaeologists

The route chosen by BC Hydro for a Site C dam highway relocation will “desecrate” a First Nations burial ground and destroy a culturally significant site used by the Dunne-za people for millennia, says West Moberly First Nations Chief Roland Willson.

This is a very serious matter,” Willson wrote in a letter to B.C. Transportation Minister Todd Stone, co-signed by Prophet River First Nation Chief Lynette Tsakoza. Tweet: “Digging up graves is not acceptable in our custom” http://bit.ly/2fADnkV #SiteC #bcpoli #cdnpoli #SiteC @ChristyClarkBC @BCHydro“Digging up graves is not acceptable in our custom.”

Willson told DeSmog that the graves are in an area of the Peace River valley known locally as Bear Flats/Cache Creek, which BC Hydro plans to clear cut this winter for the first phase of a $530 million project to move 30 kilometres of a provincial highway out of the Site C dam flood zone.

BC Hydro Missed Rare and Vulnerable Species During Site C Environmental Assessment, New Research Shows

Scientists have discovered rare and notable species in the Site C dam flood zone that were missed in BC Hydro’s environmental assessment of the $8.8 billion project, including spider and true bug species new to Canada and bumblebee and snail species vulnerable to extinction.

The findings underscore the rich biodiversity of the Peace River Valley, a northern low-elevation valley that remains “poorly known biologically in British Columbia,” said David Langor, president of the Biological Survey of Canada, a non-profit organization that coordinates scientific research.

If we were to have a more intensive sampling I’m quite sure that we would come up with quite a pile of other things that are interesting, unique and outside of normal ranges, and perhaps even species that are new to science,” Langor, an Edmonton-based biologist, told DeSmog Canada.

BC Hydro Applies to Demolish Rare, Ancient Wetland for Site C Construction

Talk about the government fox guarding the hen house. BC Hydro has applied to the provincial government for a new licence that will allow it to demolish Peace Valley protected old-growth forest, migratory bird habitat and a rare wetland for the Site C dam.

Next up on the Site C chopping block is 1,225 hectares of Crown land — an area larger than three Stanley Parks — that includes a spectacular and rare hillside wetland called a tufa seep. The seep likely took thousands of years to form, making it older than the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and the Great Wall of China.

Even if the government required BC Hydro to place a no-logging zone around the seep to protect its unique biodiversity values, it will be ultimately destroyed by the Site C reservoir. The seep is one of at least seven of the ancient wetlands that lie within the Site C project area, a concentration that botanist and lichenologist Curtis Bjork said is “unlike anything I’ve ever seen.”

Is B.C.'s Tunnel Vision Forcing out Solar Power?

A cute graphic of white houses with rooftop solar panels is featured on the U.S. Department of Energy’s website. “Solar Homes Sell for More Money,” the government tells viewers, citing studies that show solar adds an average US$15,000 to the resell value of a home.

Just like a renovated kitchen or a finished basement increases a home’s value, solar has been shown to boost home valuation and shorten a home’s time on the market.”

In contrast to the U.S. government’s cheery promotion of solar, BC Hydro’s webpage called “Solar Power & Heating for Your Home” has a blurry photograph of a man putting on a sweater, and technical information that begins with the somber news that it will take a B.C. homeowner at least 20 years to recoup the cost of a solar installation.

Tweet: .@BCHydro warns ‘Do your research on the practicality of going solar in B.C.’ http://bit.ly/2bGnDvq #bcpoliDo your research on the practicality of going solar in B.C.,” advises the webpage.

U.S. Hydropower Vision Exposes B.C.’s Short-Sighted Thinking on Site C Dam

It sounds like a renewable energy utopia of the distant future.

Twelve million houses with roofs covered in solar panels. Wind turbines whipping the equivalent energy of 170 Site C dams onto the grid. A popular type of hydro called pumped storage, which often leaves a pinky toe of an environmental footprint compared to the imprint of large dams and their reservoirs.

But this is no futuristic climate-friendly Shangri-La. It’s all part of the U.S. government’s national Hydropower Vision for the next 15 to 35 years, a report unveiled in late July at the world’s largest annual hydro event in Minneapolis.

Developed by the U.S. Department of Energy, the report outlines a very different energy path than the “one dam fits all” approach of the B.C. government, whose single-minded focus on building the $8.8 billion Site C dam on the Peace River Tweet: BC gov’s single-minded #SiteC focus blew the @CanGEA right out of the province http://bit.ly/2aM6RtE @ChristyClarkBC #SiteC #bcpoliblew the Canadian Wind Energy Association right out of the province earlier this year.

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