Impacts of proposed B.C. mega dam already felt
Possible completion of the B.C. government's proposed Site C dam is at least a decade away, but locals in the Peace River Valley are already feeling impacts from the mega project.
One rancher said BC Hydro officials were at his door within hours of the provincial government's official announcement on Wednesday to deliver a letter outlining how flooding from the dam will impact his life.
"Within two hours of that meeting, Hydro was already hand-delivering me a letter because I own property in the valley, and saying, `Do you want to talk to us about where the road's going to go?"' said Leigh Summer.
The dam will create an 83-kilometre-long reservoir, flood about 5,400 hectares and force the rerouting of parts of Highway 29 near Summer's home.
"This is just more of the things that frustrates us, that they can do these kind of things in such an expedient manner, but when it comes to us getting information as to the true facts and everything it can go on forever," he said.
"When it's their agenda, it happens within hours."
Area aboriginals also greeted the Site C announcement with caution, choosing not to attend the official event at the Bennett Dam.
Treaty 8 tribal Chief Liz Logan said before talks about Site C start, aboriginals want to address unresolved issues with two existing BC Hydro dams and the area's massive oil and gas industry expansion that involve environmental damage and depletion of wildlife.
Logan said residents of the Peace River Valley have known for decades that Site C was always on the government's agenda.
But the announcement that the provincial government was actually prepared to take the next step — to an environmental assessment and consultation process — was still a surprise.
She said she immediately received a call from an elder concerned about flooding.
"He keeps saying, 'What are you guys doing to protect my grandfather's grave?"' said Logan. "He was a former chief. He signed our treaty in the 1900s. He was buried in 1918 down in that flood zone."
Chiefs from the majority of the Treaty 8 First Nations — Blueberry River, Doig River, Fort Nelson, Halfway River, McLeod Lake, Prophet River, Saulteau and West Moberly — gathered in Fort St. John to consider Site C, said Logan.
Premier Gordon Campbell announced Site C would go forward with an environmental assessment and consultation with First Nations and local residents on the road to deciding if the dam will become a reality.