As published in the November 8, 2011 issue of the Alaska Highway News, guest column:

Site C not a ‘Done Deal’

Peace Valley Environment Association

Fort St. John, BC – November 7, 2011

BC’s Liberal government repeatedly states that Site C is going ahead and yet the environmental assessment process has only just begun.

“If the Site C project on the Peace River is a “done deal”, why is the the BC government participating in an environmental assessment process which purports to examine whether the project fulfills an actual need?” asks Andrea Morison, Coordinator for the Peace Valley Environment Association. “Has the provincial government already decided that the harmonized environmental process is a sham?”

Taxpayers and Hydro ratepayers will be on the hook for more than $8 billion to build a dam that is only needed to provide power to feed the BC Liberal government’s ambitious industrial expansion plans.  Nevertheless, when Energy Minister Rich Coleman is questioned by Vancouver Sun’s Vaughn Palmer, he states “We’ll have Site C…”.

“Have we decided that agricultural farmland, 8000 acres of the only class 1 and 2 agricultural land in the northeast, is of no value? Allowing this land to remain and be productive would provide local food security to northern BC,”  states Morison. The agricultural land that will be lost is huge, equivalent to about 7 times the size of Stanley Park.

Class 1 agricultural land is the kind of land where you can grow almost anything, including fruits and vegetables that make up a healthy diet.  Building the Site C dam would result in the single largest deletion from the Agricultural Land Reserve in the history of the province, and many are asking, for what?  To provide power for industry at taxpayers’ expense?

A new report from the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions states that “British Columbians should not assume that food supplies will continue to be easily accessible in future, and more steps should be taken to improve food security as climate change and other pressures evolve.” Lead author Aleck Ostry points out that about three quarters of the fruits and vegetables that we currently eat in B.C. are imported, mainly from California.

The report also points out that “Drought-prone California is just one example of where we are vulnerable. BC’s own fruit bowl, the Okanagan, is also facing likely drier growing conditions, and the province’s greenhouse vegetable industry is mainly export oriented. Self-sufficiency will be a key issue for our future food security.”

It seems entirely inappropriate that key members of the BC government have already concluded that building a dam to indebt future generations and destroy essential farmland is a “done deal”.