Site C dam will destroy wildlife and Peace River Valley, says resident

Shelley Falk Ouellette

FORT ST.  JOHN, B.C.—I continually see news stories concerning the multi-billion-dollar Site C dam project in northeastern British Columbia. There is growing opposition to this project.

But while our numbers grow every day, we go unheard. Our emails to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Environment Minister Catherine McKenna are ignored. Site C dam is touted as clean energy, but that is completely untrue. Hydro electric dams and their reservoirs pollute the atmosphere, the rivers, the surrounding land, and they poison fish and wildlife. The Site C dam will be no different.

The area the reservoir will flood is vital to the environment, the ecology, and the welfare of an entire region. One of our biggest concerns is the loss of the old growth forest and the boreal forest along the banks of the Peace River. The forests are a carbon sink, meaning they suck and store vast amounts of carbon forever. Site C will replace this pristine natural wonder, the lungs of our Earth, with a methyl mercury, methane, and carbon-emitting reservoir that will poison everything in and around it. The forests are the home, nesting and breeding grounds for countless species of birds and wildlife. Many of them protected species and all on the endangered species list.

The area is home to many bald eagles, whose nests have already been destroyed by B.C. Hydro. Further to the north is the Peace Athabasca Delta, a protected area under the Ramsar Convention. The delta is the summer breeding and nesting grounds for thousands of species of migratory shore birds who also use the Peace River Valley as a resting and feeding area on their migration north. The PAD is in great peril from the two existing dams on the Peace River. The Peace River runs along the north side of the delta, and because of the fluctuating water levels, the ecology of the delta is being severely stressed.

The Peace River Valley is a jewel of a valley. B.C. Premier Christy Clark secretly lessened its environmental protections last year. It is an east-west running valley with its own micro climate. It gets the benefit of 16 hours of sun and daylight during the summer months and provides the locals with a plethora of fruits and vegetables. Everything from corn to cantaloupe is grown in the valley. It consists of rare alluvial soil and has the potential to feed a million people. The valley consists of 2,564 hectares of grade No. 1 soil, 12,502 hectares of grade No. 2 soil, making it the best soil and some of the only of its kind left in B.C.

We import 65 per cent of all our produce and fruit from the California. With the drought there, and the loss of huge tracts of farmland due to desertification, when will they stop exporting to us to feed their own? Meanwhile, this valley of so much potential, gets flooded, and will be lost forever. Food sustainability should be first and foremost on our and especially our government’s agenda.

Forestry will be affected as well. The B.C. government has applied to lower the level of the Williston reservoir to fill the Site C reservoir. This will put the town of Mackenzie on the endangered list. They will lose their only revenue and essentially become a ghost town. Jobs will be lost numbering in the thousands in Mackenzie and Prince George forestry industry. Is this okay?

The valley has been homesteaded for 100 years by settlers. The Ardill family has a ranch, located far beneath the estimated reservoir water level. It was established 96 years ago. It was cleared by hand and successfully raised four generations. BCH will tear their home down, rip out their fences, cut down a century of family history without blinking an eye. Arlene and Ken Boon stand to lose the ranch that Arlene’s great-grandfather established several generations ago as well. These people are the salt of the earth. To BCH and the B.C. government, they are expendable. Their lives and livelihoods are expendable.

We’re all expendable, according to our government’s actions and inactions. We have the oil and gas wells, we have the dams and the reservoirs, we have the filthy air and the dirty water, the stench of H2S, flared gas, and other chemicals. We have oily creeks and unusable lands. Most of all, we have no say. We are not heard or listened to. We are not asked or consulted. We are truly the expendables.

We have become non-people in the eyes of both the federal and provincial governments. Our own MLA, Pat Pimm, refuses to listen and our MP is not listening either. All these concerns are well-documented and easily researched. They have been reported one at a time and are considered menial problems in the grand scheme of the dam and progress. But to read them all listed one by one, they don’t seem so small or menial. I must admit, while writing this, I’ve had to stop and shed tears for all that will be lost of my home of 57 years.