If the Site C dam is built on the Peace River in northeastern B.C., retired high-school principal Ken Forest will feel its ripples.
First of all, the river will rise and wipe out the valley floor visible below his property at Charlie Lake, just outside the town of Fort St. John.
Secondly, Forest will witness another rise—this time in his property values. That’s because he could then advertise the house he built himself as having a “lakefront view”.
“That’s not worth it for me,” Forest said on August 14. “To lose a valley for personal gain is just unconscionable.”
Forest said he has identified a number of wildlife from his deck alone and has hiked the surrounding areas extensively.
“Wolverines, wolf, moose, bear, lynx, deer, weasels, porcupines, buffalo, grizzly bear, coyotes, foxes, fisher,” Forest said of the species he has seen personally. “Name something and I’ll tell you if I’ve seen it.”
On a wider economic scale, Forest said, “I can’t say there are no gains to having a dam.”
“Some people, a few people, will gain a lot,” he said. “People who parachute in, take what they can get, and get out are going to go away with their nest egg. People who really see this place as home and live in the valley are going to lose big time. The First Nations are going to lose a chunk of their way of life. The gains are short term.”
Forest said he believes “alternatives” to hydroelectric dams exist.
“It’s not like we’re facing massive brownouts,” he said. “I don’t believe that at all—not for a second. There is lots of opportunity in the future to sustain our way of life, to have good energy supplies, and not compromise valleys like this.”
But Forest is apprehensive. In 1980, he said he attended a meeting on Site C at the Mackenzie Inn in Fort St. John. Forest talked to a panel from B.C. Hydro.
“Standing at a microphone, I said, ”˜Would it make a difference if we had a referendum and the vast majority of the Peace River [residents] said they didn’t want the dam?’” Forest recalled. “”˜Would that make a difference on your decision to build the dam?’ The answer I was given then was, no, it wouldn’t.”
Site C was shelved 25 years ago. Now Forest is concerned the opposing voices will not be heard this time around.
“I am very concerned about that,” he said. “I think that there could be some public pressure from this area. But it’s such a low population, and they put it in perspective against the rest of the province and they say, ”˜We can write that little piece off. There are not many people there. We have to take a look at the entire province, and we’re gonna build the dam whether most of the people there are in favour of it or not. We just have to mind our ducks and get them in order to get this thing done.’ That’s my perception of that.”