Site C dam still faces stiff opposition despite government approval

Photo by Wayne Sawchuck.

Fort St. John – Last week, federal and provincial governments offered conditional approval of BC Hydro’s Site C dam project in the Peace River Valley in northeastern BC.

The approval is subject to the project meeting 77 environmental, economic and other conditions, including wetland and wildlife conservation throughout the area, as well as working collaboratively with area First Nations.

Although the government’s conditional approval was a setback for local residents, Aboriginal leaders and conservation groups who are opposed to the project, many are still convinced the dam will not be built.

One of those groups, the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y), argues the project should not go ahead because the area faces several other industial threats — including oil and gas development, coal and coalbed methane development, and metallic mineral mining — that together put the area’s wildlife and at risk.

“[Y2Y] is concerned about the cumulative impacts on wildlife movement of the Site C reservoir together with the heavy industrial footprint in the region,” says Karsten Heuer, Y2Y’s president. “The Peace River Valley is located at the narrowest width of the Yellowstone to Yukon region and the existing Williston Reservoir is already a major blockage to wildlife movement.”

Y2Y recently commissioned a report, by expert biologist Clayton Apps, which examined the environmental impacts of the project. The final report, which was presented to the Joint Review Panel, found that the dam would negatively affect many wildlife species in the area.

The Peace River cuts through one of the most developed areas along the entire Y2Y wildlife corridor, which stretches along North America’s Rocky Montains and offers extensive and connected habitat for wide-ranging wildlife, such as grizzly bears, caribou and wolves.

If built, the dam would alter BC’s Peace River, already one the province’s most endangered rivers, and would flood valley bottoms, destroy important agricultural land and further fragment wildlife populations in the area.