April 10, 2012

Katelin Dean
Staff Writer

If it moves forward, Site C’s construction will have a big impact right inside Fort St. John.

The project could involve a conveyor belt running for 24 hours a day, for up to seven years, along 85th Ave.

“Talk about a loss of real estate values,” said Ken Boon, a member of a landowners group opposed to Site C. “You just go south of that, and there’s a street there with beautiful homes and they’re going to have that in their backyard.”

“That 85th (Ave) industrial site that Hydro’s purchased; that’s going to have a big impact on people, and I don’t think they know it yet,” he continued. “They’re proposing putting a conveyor belt down there, and it would have to cross the Old Fort Road and it would go down to the dam site and it would be chugging along there.”

Dave Conway, BC Hydro’s Community Relations Manager for the Site C Project, confirmed BC Hydro’s acquisition of the land in Fort St. John.

“We purchased a parcel of land just below 85th Ave,” Conway said. “It’s 98 hectares.”

This parcel’s boundaries are from just below 85th Ave, which is the north boundary, to 100th Street as its eastern boundary, extending to the Old Fort Road as its west boundary.

“It extends parallel to 85th Ave approximately 750 metres,” Conway said.

“We acquired the site for materials to build the dam,” he continued. “The dam is an earth-filled dam and it requires a substantial amount of materials and this site is one of the locations, actually the location where we found the best material for the dam.

“We’ll be talking to the public about materials transport options, of which the conveyor belt is our preferred option,” he said.

He noted that the distance between the site and the dam is approximately 4.5 kilometres.

“BC Hydro still continues to believe that the project is a viable generation option,” Conway said. “The thing about large hydro projects is that they have very long developmental timelines.”

This project is currently undergoing its official environmental assessment, which is a joint project between federal and provincial governments.

“If this project were certified, for example, and it’s not… if it were certified and we were able to start construction, it would take seven years to actually construct,” Conway said.

In addition to the government’s environmental assessment process, BC Hydro is also doing consultations that they’re leading themselves.

Boon, who is part of the Peace River Landowners group, said BC Hydro has been speaking to landowners in the region individually in the last couple of weeks.

“It’s been in the last two or three weeks that Hydro’s been talking to landowners, so what they do is they come out with… they bring out an engineer to talk about the impact lines, and a fella that’s specialized in preferred highway realignment and then the land rep,” Boon said. “They usually gang up on you with three of them.”

If this project moves forward, like many, Boon said he will have to move.

“If Site C goes ahead, our house is toast and we’re out of here,” he said. “There’s the potential that we’re going to lose it.”

He said he doesn’t know what he’ll do if that happens. He has lived there for 20 years, and also runs a campground on the property, in addition to building log homes.

“I hate to speculate,” he said. “I see that with some people; they get speculating about it, but the next thing you know, they’re dreaming up some great thing to do and they want the project to go ahead so they have an excuse to change their life.

“I don’t want to do that,” he said. “We love it here; we want to stay here forever.”

The land he and his wife live on once belonged to her grandfather.

“We’re going to stay here, fight the good fight and we’ll worry about (moving) later,” Boon said.

Conway said consulting with the public is part of Stage 3, which is where BC Hydro currently is.

“We’re presently, as part of Stage 3, is we’re evaluating potential impacts as part of the environmental assessment process and that information will be included in our environmental impact statement guidelines,” he said. “We’re evaluating what the impact will be, not only from the reservoir and flooding, but potential erosion as well as highway realignment.”

Boon said the “highway realignment” would see highway 29 go straight through the middle of his campground.

“We farm here, and we run a campground and we build log homes,” Boon said. “The preferred realignment of Highway 29, to use their terminology, goes right through the middle of our campground.

“The log yard would be under water,” he continued. “We can build log homes anywhere I guess, but we’d have to move all that structure and stuff.

“It would be a huge impact for ourselves,” he said.

He said he’s been meeting with other landowners in the area for the past couple of years.

While the environmental assessment continues for at least another two years, BC Hydro begins their official consultation today.

“All the information will be live on our website,” Conway said.

It’s supposed to be live sometime this afternoon.

“Three topics that we’ll be providing information about are transmission update, worker accommodation and preliminary impact on lines and land use,” he said. “The ones we’re actually consulting on will be Highway 29, outdoor recreation and the use of industrial lands (including a conveyor belt in Fort St. John).”

Conway encourages the public to attend an open house in Fort St. John on Tuesday, April 17 from 6 – 9 p.m. at the Pomeroy Hotel.

Boon said, “To me, the biggest crime is the loss of this valley to everybody; to Fort St. John. We have this beautiful river valley here with beautiful recreational opportunities, and good farmland.”