Following is the letter template that we are asking supporters to send to the Federal Minister of the Environment, urging the federal government to ensure that a full panel federal environmental assessment is conducted for the proposed Site C Hydro Dam.  While BC Hydro is presently preparing to submit their project for a BC environmental assessment, the provincial process is not as comprehensive as the federal process.  In particular, the provincial process will not look at the ‘need for’ and ‘alternatives to’ the project, while it is likely that this will occur in a federal process.

I am posting the letter now, since we are making reference to it through the media as we pass along information about our Listening Tour, ‘ Meet the Peace:  The Story of the Peace River and the Threat of Site C’, which begins next week.  However, it would be preferable if you would hold off sending the letter until Prime Minister Harper announces his new cabinet.  There may be a change in the Minister of the Environment and we feel it would be most effective if the letters arrived right after the new ministers are established.  Thank you for your consideration and support!  Here’s the letter:

May       , 2011

Minister of Environment

10 Wellington Street, 28th Floor

Gatineau, Quebec  K1A 0H3

Re:  CEAA Full Panel Review Request for Proposed Site C Dam on the Peace River in Northeast British Columbia

Dear Minister,

The purpose of this correspondence is to ensure that BC Hydro’s proposed Site C Dam, on the Peace River in northeastern British Columbia, is subject to a full panel federal environmental assessment (EA).  The project will soon be submitted for a provincial EA;  however, the scope of the provincial process does not provide the opportunity to fully and adequately assess the diverse array of issues associated with this project.

This is a mega-project that spans federal, provincial and territorial jurisdictions.  It will affect residents, waterways, fisheries, wildlife, agriculture and First Nation’s abilities to exercise their treaty rights in British Columbia, Alberta and the Northwest Territories.  The proposed dam would destroy third-generation family farms.  It would flood over 11,000 acres of agricultural land, including over 7,000 acres of exceptionally high quality agricultural Class 1 and Class 2 land, capable of a substantial contribution to future food sustainability.  It would also severely impact the narrowest point of the Yellowstone to Yukon wildlife conservation corridor and destroy unique ecosystems, species and microclimates of the Peace River Valley.

In addition to the known environmental impacts, there is considerable concern regarding the instability of the clay-lined banks that comprise the proposed dam site and reservoir area.  The proposed 83 km long reservoir has notoriously unstable banks, with four major landslides having occurred in the past century.  To date, BC Hydro’s engineering reports have not provided assurance that this critical issue can be managed effectively.  The slope instability could lead to a compromised reservoir and even dam failure, with catastrophic results; obliterating several downstream communities, bridges, gas and oil pipelines, and electrical transmission lines.

There are many viable alternatives that can provide the energy required to meet the needs of British Columbians that are both more cost effective and far less detrimental to our natural environment.  Options to be considered include:  wind;  geothermal;  upgrading of existing facilities close to the greatest sources of demand;  and, conservation.  A full panel federal EA is the process required to adequately consider not only the environmental impacts of this highly controversial project, but also the need for, and effective alternatives to, meeting the energy needs of British Columbia now and in the future.

It is my belief that it is your mandate to protect the environment from unreasonable human activity, and to protect humans from unacceptable environmental risk.  With that in mind, I am asking you to please ensure that BC Hydro’s Proposed Site C Dam project and transmission development is subjected to a full panel review under the CEAA.