Peace River Site C hydroelectric proposal, northeastern British Columbia
Site C, a mega hydroelectric project is planned for the Peace River in northeastern British Columbia. The proposed dam would create a reservoir stretching more than a hundred kilometres (LINK) along the river and its tributaries. It would flood critical wildlife habitat, prime farmland, and historical and First Nations cultural sites. It will likely have detrimental effects on the Peace River delta, a United Nations World Heritage Site downstream.
Wildlife habitat: The section of the Peace to be flooded forms a critical ecological link in the south to north Yellowstone to Yukon (Y2Y) Conservation Initiative. Hydro development threatens to sever this link for species such as the grizzly bear. The Peace River Valley provides the only breach in the Rocky Mountains and hence is an important east-west corridor for wildlife. Wildlife have already been drastically affected by development along the Peace, especially by the WAC Bennett dam and its huge reservoir which were constructed farther upstream in the 1960’s.
Peace River delta: The Peace River delta is a huge freshwater delta located downstream in Alberta where the Peace River meets the Athabasca-Slave River system at the west end of Lake Athabasca. It is of international importance and has been designated a United Nations World Heritage Site. The wetlands of the delta have already been significantly affected by the WAC Bennett dam because of alteration of the river’s natural flow regime. No environmental assessment was carried out when that dam was constructed in the 60’s. It is unclear how serious the effects of the new proposed project will be for the delta as the necessary environmental studies have not been conducted.
Farmland: Only a tiny fraction of British Columbia is suitable for agriculture. Much of the Province’s food is imported. One would have thought that the protection of the Province’s prime farm land would be a top priority. Think again! The portion of the Peace River Valley that would be lost due to flooding by the Site C dam includes a large area of class 1 and class 2 farmland, which is considered the best in northeastern BC.
There is fierce opposition to the Site C project from environmentalists, farmers, and First Nations.
In October 2014, a federal-provincial Joint Review Panel granted environmental assessment approval of the project.
In November 2014, local First Nations filed a law suit to stop the project due to the devastating effects which it would have on their traditional lands. Alberta First Nations filed a separate lawsuit claiming that the downstream effects of the project on the Peace River Delta have not be properly considered.
In December 2014, the BC government approved the project.
In May 2015, Heritage Canada National Trust designated the Peace River as one of Canada's 10 Most Endangered Places because the Site C project will destroy many First Nations traditional and sacred sites, other historical sites, wildlife habitat and prime farmland.
The site C project, which was first developed nearly half a century ago, and has been rejected in the past, must be rejected once again.