B.C. and Fort St. John chambers of commerce differ on Site C dam

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      The Fort St. John & District Chamber of Commerce is not taking a position on the potential Site C dam, though the B.C. Chamber of Commerce has gone on record as being in favour.

      When the Straight walked into the offices of the local chamber last month, located just off Fort St. John’s main 100th Street thoroughfare, manager Annette Oak said she and her colleagues would act as “information conduits” on the issue.

      She then referred the Straight to president Russ Beerling for further comment.

      “From a chamber standpoint, because we represent all the businesses, we don’t want to speak on behalf of the project or speak opposed to the project, because there is going to be a mix in our membership as to where each and every one of them stands,” Beerling said via cellphone on August 14. “So, we kind of want to...well, we’re sitting neutral, and as Annette [Oak] has explained to you, we’re just really being an information conduit to our members. So, when the members come to us, we provide them with the information. When they want to know what the pros and the cons of it are, we provide them with that information equally as well.”

      In its October 2008 newsletter, the Vancouver-based B.C. Chamber of Commerce stated that it was “critical that we enhance our conservation efforts to reduce demand, as well as bolstering our supply through the construction of new generation capacity”.

      “It is within this context that we support the development of Site C,” the provincial chamber wrote.

      Beerling said he was aware of the provincial chamber’s position, but added: “We haven’t taken a stand because we’re too close to it. We’re too close to the project.”

      Beerling clarified that he was referring to the project as being geographically too close to home. He said the chamber includes members from the small town of Hudson’s Hope, which is on the other side of where Site C would be.

      “They are very affected there and everywhere in between,” Beerling said. “It affects our members. If they go ahead with Site C, it’s going to change the whole look of our land. For some people, their business is the land. There are farmers in there that are going to be affected. There’s going to be a lot of different businesses that are going to be affected by the dam going in, so we have to make sure that we stay as neutral as possible, just provide that information, and make sure we send them in the right direction.”

      Fort St. John mayor Bruce Lantz sits on the B.C. Chamber of Commerce's board of directors.

      "Prior to my time on the board they passed a resolution supporting Site C as good for business," Lantz told the Straight. "I’ve been on there for a couple of years. I have been arguing at every annual general meeting since then to have that taken off the books. And it isn’t; it’s still there."

      Currently, B.C. Hydro is approaching the end of the project definition and consultation stage—the second stage of the project which looks to add a third dam to the Peace River alongside the W.A.C. Bennett and Peace Canyon dams. Crown corporation staff will submit a report to the provincial cabinet this fall which will indicate whether the project should proceed to the environmental assessment phase.

      Comments

      6 Comments

      givepeaceachance

      Sep 10, 2009 at 3:15pm

      The B.C. Chamber of Commerce officially supported the proposed Site C project with essentially no information to make that decision on. BC Hydro's Site C team has publically stated that it will not know the real cost of the proposed project until much later and the World Commission on Dams (2002 report) notes that large Hydro projects have a tradition of 50% cost overruns. So,at this point, the B.C. Chamber cannot even begin to understand the economics of the project compared to truly green energy alternatives, such as geothermal. Large hydro dams create surprisingly few permanent jobs and the boom and bust cycle resulting from the construction phase not only stresses the infrastructure of the local community, but results in increased social problems. The BC Throne Speech indicates the Liberal government wants the power for energy exports. You have to question whether exporting electricity to fuel the economies of neighbouring jurisdictions is not dissimilar to exporting raw logs to be processed offshore. Finally, British Columbia is exporting wood pellets to Europe for carbon-neutral electrical energy generation. Why don't we take a tip from the green Europeans and see if we can better support our forest industry and save the Peace River valley at the same time?

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      RA

      Sep 12, 2009 at 9:17am

      I do not see how the B.C. Chamber can support the proposed Site C as all the information is not even available. The proposed project will cost taxpayers a bundle. I say No to Site C.

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      Tammy Loewen

      Sep 12, 2009 at 9:51am

      This project will benefit the present and upcoming generation of
      people in the Peace region as it will provide recreation activities and jobs not to mention a constant supply of power (especially at -30 degrees in the dead of winter). Yes some land will be under water and the wildlife will have to move up the slopes of the banks but they are not going anywhere this is not Noah's Arc. Studies will have to be done on environmental impacts caused by flooding, but people should realize that rivers change paths and erode continually over time. From what I understand the flood area will deepen as it moves from Hudson Hope towards Fort St.John. It will not be taking out the whole valley from H.H to FSJ. It will flood some portion of flood plains including some farm land, which is unfortunate, but I think well needed to supply a growing population and to keep the cost of hydro low in BC. Maybe BC or Canada can look at what the Europeans are doing; this would mean destruction of lands and forests for making the wood chips so I hope after 25 years I hope we still have a lot of forests left in BC, so we can still have power. Imagine the devastation to our forest after 25 or 50 years. I assume the Europeans do not have the water resources that we have and they do not want to build something that is not an everyday for sure thing, like solar or wind. They want to "green up" and do not want to build continue down the path of nuclear and coal/oil ran generation. Thank You

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      Givepeaceachance

      Sep 12, 2009 at 3:24pm

      Tammy - Perhaps you would feel differently about "some land being under water" if it was your family's land. For the record, I am like most of the people fighting Site C in that I do not own land in the valley. However, I have come to know many fine people who are facing the expropriation of their family farms. I think most people who say "I am favour of Site C because I want to get a higher selling price for my house when I move back to the Okanagan/Nova Scotia/wherever" or "I want to waterski on the reservoir" would feel differently if they were looking in the face of someone who will lose their family heritage if this dam goes through. I don't believe they mean any harm -- they just haven't thought the real implications through.

      As far as needing the jobs goes - eighteen months ago most employers were desperate for workers in the northeast (and throughout the entire country) and they will be once again as soon as the recession is over. Mega-projects aren't actually that good for a community -- lots of drugs, lots of social problems, and stress on the community infrastructure.

      You mention recreation -- the Peace River valley already supports excellent recreation, ask anyone with a canoe, kayak or jet boat. Destroying a river to get a hydro reservoir is not only regressive, in the case of Site C, the stated recreation benefits are highly suspect. The river valley is composed of highly erodible soils that have a long history of landslides. In the past century, there have been at least four major "sloughs" within the proposed Site C flood zone large enough to block the entire river for up to a day. In addition, the original bridge over the Peace at the community of Taylor collapsed because of bank instability. This is typical of the geology of the Peace River and there have always been geotechnical concerns about building an earthfill dam at the proposed site. BC Hydro will be very cautious about allowing public use of the reservoir. During last year's consultation meetings a BC Hydro reps said that the reservoir will be closed to the public until the banks stabilize. Given that areas of similar geology along the Williston Reservoir have shown no sign of stabilizing in forty years, you may have to wait awhile.

      Re: your comment on the "wildlife moving up the slope." Species evolved to live in riparian areas live in riparian areas. Some species, such as moose, have broader habitat requirements and rely on that habitat on a seasonal basis. On the other hand, some species rely on valley bottom habitat throughout the year. You take that habitat away and they disappear from an area. People like to think they just go somewhere else because it relieves them of the responsibility of feeling they have done any harm.

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      S Hoffmann

      Sep 12, 2009 at 8:44pm

      Tammy, Site C would provide many jobs but one has to keep in mind that these would be very short-term jobs, lasting only during the construction phase. Many of these jobs will not be going to locals as they have plans for camps to accommodate 1250-1350 workers (page 18, Project Definition Consultation, Discussion Guide and Feedback Form, Round 1: May/June 2008) which would bring about a whole host of additional problems. At the pre-consultation meetings, BC Hydro representatives stated there would only be approximately 25 permanent jobs. This is not a lot of benefit to the community and definitely not worth the permanent destruction of a river valley.

      BC Hydro has promoted recreation during the consultation process and would like people to believe that the reservoir would provide great recreation, but their own documentation has stated that the recreational value of a reservoir is significantly less than that of the river. In fact, there will be very limited access if any during the construction phase and also during the stabilization period to follow. It could be quite a few years before one can even get on the reservoir. Then there will be elevated methylmercury levels in the fish, diminished wildlife populations, sloughing and other environmental impacts associated with dams. While ”˜rivers change paths and erode continually over time’ this is very different than flooding a river valley to form a reservoir which is far from being a natural process and has very significant impacts.

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      Fred Green

      Nov 19, 2009 at 7:32pm

      Site C is our only hope to avoid sending Alberta $100 to $300 million every year for their coal-fired electricty and, at the same time, polluting the air of Alberta, Sask. and Manitoba (the winds flow from West to East) causing lung cancer and a host of other cancers.

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