Fort St. John – Hundreds of people in canoes, kayaks and other watercraft will float down the Peace River on July 11, for the annual Paddle for the Peace, to protest the imminent construction of the Site C dam.
The $9 billion dam, approved by the B.C. government last December, would flood more than 100 kilometres of the Peace River and its tributaries, forcing farmers, ranchers and other families from their homes.
“The decision to proceed with Site C construction is even more inappropriate in the wake of the Truth and Reconciliation report,” said Chief Roland Willson of the West Moberly First Nations. “Site C does not represent a rapproachement with Canada’s First Nations. It will take us in the opposite direction.”
“Industrial development has already severely constrained the ability of grizzly bear, caribou and other sensitive large mammals to live in the Peace region,” said Wendy Francis, Interim President of Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative. “Site C will make the problem worse, and some sensitive species like wolverine could disappear entirely from the region.”
On July 1, following a petition by two Alberta First Nations, the World Heritage Committee voted to send a mission to investigate Site C and other industrial development affecting the Wood Buffalo World Heritage Site. The committee asked the Canadian government to ensure that no irreversible work is done on Site C until its mission and report are complete.
Six court cases are pending against Site C, including five by First Nations. BC Hydro has served notice that work on the dam can begin as early as this week.
On July 3, the Greater Vancouver Regional District Board, representing 23 local governments and 2.5 million people, voted to ask B.C. Premier Christy Clark for a 2-year moratorium on Site C. The board joins more than 30 other B.C. municipalities calling for a Site C moratorium.
Former Agricultural Land Commission Chair Richard Bullock called the largest removal of agricultural land in the history of B.C.’s Agricultural Land Reserve for Site C a ‘sin against humanity’. Energy Economist Robert McCullough said recently in a report that BC Hydro has dramatically underestimated the cost of producing power from Site C and that far cheaper energy alternatives are available.
Harry Swain, chair of the environmental assessment Joint Review Panel that examined Site C for the federal and provincial governments, said the B.C. government’s decision to proceed with Site C is a “dereliction of duty.”
“The Site C dam is an idea whose time is long gone,” said Wilderness Committee Campaign Director Joe Foy, who will be at the Paddle for the Peace. “It’s a bad idea from the 60s that needs to be dropped for good.”
The annual Paddle for the Peace begins at 9 a.m. at the Halfway River, with a pancake breakfast hosted by the West Moberly First Nations. Boats will be launched into the Peace River at the Halfway tributary for the Paddle, ending at a third-generation farm owned by Ken and Arlene Boon that will be underwater if Site C goes ahead.
“Paddlers will see first-hand the many ecological values, including wildlife habitat and farmland, that would all be lost to Site C,” said Andrea Morison, coordinator for the Peace Valley Environment Association.