Activists bring Site C opposition to Whistler 

Major hydroelectric dam project will flood farmland in B.C.'s north

Activists from B.C.'s northern region say Sea to Sky residents should be just as concerned as they are about a hydroelectric dam that will flood farmland around the Peace River.

The activists, members of the Peace Valley Environmental Association, brought their message to the Whistler Public Library on June 2 as part of a talk titled, "Meet the Peace: The Story of the Peace River and the Threat of Site C Dam."

The subject was Site C - a proposed third dam and hydroelectric generating station planned for the Peace River in northeastern B.C. that could affect 18 per cent of agricultural land rated Class 1 to 3 in the Peace River area - highly arable land, according to standards set down by the Agricultural Land Commission.

Diane Culling, a wildlife biologist and resident of the Peace River area, said Sea to Sky residents should care about it for reasons of "food security."

"British Columbia is growing less than, I think it's roughly around 43 per cent of our own food," she said.

"You think about the rising cost of food security in North America. If California is short of food, we get our vegetables shipped from California. If California is starting to get short on food, they're going to keep it for themselves, so British Columbia really needs to take our ability to feed our own people seriously."

Another reason Sea to Sky residents should care, she said, is that parts of the region have faced problems similar to what Peace residents are witnessing with regard to approving Site C. The project has to go through an environmental assessment, but other than that, BC Hydro can just up and decide to spend the estimated $8 billion it would take to construct the dam, without having to go through a regulator.

Squamish residents faced the same issue in 2006 when they mounted feverish opposition to the Ashlu Creek run-of-river project but the provincial government changed legislation in order to make it so that local governments could not override the installation of a utility.

If Site C were built, Culling said, BC Hydro might have to upgrade bulk transmission lines that traverse both Pemberton and Whistler in order to allow more electricity to transfer through them.

"It would make the probability of having to upgrade that line for higher transmission capacity," she said.

For their part, officials with BC Hydro have stated in previous Pique stories that it does not expect to build new transmission lines beyond the Peace region.




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