Video: Potential windfall won’t sway opponent of Site C dam in northeastern B.C.

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.”



Sandra H

Sep 10, 2009 at 7:06pm

In addition, destroying a river valley to satisfy the energy demands of the States is unconscionable!


Sep 10, 2009 at 9:19pm

Betty, you said: "How can we even begin to think of destroying 10,000 hectares of prime agricultural land so that we can supply our ever increasing demand for cheap electricity? "
That's easy. Most of us live in the Lower Mainland/Okanagan/Vancouver Island, and don't give a damn about the rest of BC.


Sep 11, 2009 at 8:14pm

No brownouts, yet. Keep postponing clean dams and there will be. The natives lose a chunk of their way of life?? Please. The government largess will continue at taxpayer expense no matter where they go or what they do.

Forest should check his hydro bill because in 10 years with no infrastructure increase it will be a sight to behold.

So whats wrong with selling excess hydro to the US and putting the money into Canadian coffers?


Sep 11, 2009 at 8:31pm

I'd rather have 1 Site C than 500 run of river projects

S Hoffmann

Sep 12, 2009 at 7:42am

It is not a choice between a mega dam or run-of-the-river”¦we don’t need either! We don’t need the dam, which is definitely not green, or run-of-the-river. BC has been a net exporter 8 out of the last 11 years (Stats Canada). There is not a domestic need but rather the intent of building these is for export as clearly stated in the throne speech. The problem with exporting is when we are unnecessarily destroying our river valleys for profit. The problem is when we are giving away our future for a slight economic gain.

Flooding the valley would destroy a significant amount of class 1 land which is the food security for the North for the future. This land is critical wildlife habitat for a number of blue and red listed species. Flooding the valley would also further narrow what is already the narrowest part of the continentally important Yellowstone to Yukon (Y2Y) wildlife migration corridor. Considering climate change, this migration corridor will become increasing important and putting it further at risk is not wise.


Sep 12, 2009 at 9:25am

With climate change, there will be more call for local food security. We, in the north, deserve to have access to good food grown in our area. This area sends power, oil and gas down south. Enough is enough!!!

S Hoffmann

Sep 12, 2009 at 10:05am

Correction... this reference of 8 out of the last 11 years that BC was an exporter of energy is actually from the National Energy Board.


Sep 13, 2009 at 12:12pm

Cry me a river, its called progress. You want your welfare state, you have to put money in its coffers somehow. With the ever increasing population in BC, you can only "conserve" so much. What happened to the coming temperature drop hysteria of a number of years ago? Now its the coming temperature rise. Give me a break.


Sep 14, 2009 at 1:30pm

Visigoth, you said "you can only conserve so much", which I assume means you are really working to reduce your personal electricity footprint. I'd really like to hear about the measures you have taken to conserve power.

On the topic of is important to remember that having a plasma TV blarring away in an empty room does not improve one's quality of life. You don't have to look hard to find people that leave every light on in the house in the middle of the day. Part of the problem is a geographic disconnect between where the demand and supply are located -- if it isn't your river valley that is threatened, why should you care? Another problem is the misconception that conserving energy has to mean suffering (these people that respond to concerns about Site C with the retort "would you like to live by candle light" are indulging in hyperbole because they aren't familiar with energy issues and 21st century technology. The fact of the matter is that we waste a deplorable amount of electricity in British Columbia and before we ever get anywhere close to having brown outs from lack of capacity the rate system would be restructured to "help us" learn how to conserve.

Richard Neufeld liked to trumpet the idea that having the third lowest electricity rates in North America was really important. He overlooked the fact that those low rates not only make us among the most energy inefficient people on the planet, they stymie innovation in energy technology. Check out a recent article in The Walrus about Germany's bold and highly successful plan to generate green energy, which also resulted in incredible economic benefits ( Interestingly, the North American experts said Germany's plan would never work, but were proved wrong. Visigoth, you think flooding 100 km of major river valley and Class 1 farmland is progress -- I think the German plan is a much better definition of the word.


Sep 15, 2009 at 10:17am

Conservation is great and El Gordo should be doing a lot more to encourage it. We as citizens should do more much more

That said solar and wind are extremely expensive alternatives to nuclear a minimum 6 times the cost per kilowatt hour. Germany has been building coal and gas fired plants left right and centre to cover the lack of dependability of their solar and wind alternatives. As a method of saving money or greenhouse gases the entire program has been an utter failure.

Ontario Hydro was quoted $24 billion by Areva for 3.3 gigawatts of nuclear capacity covering all costs for 60 years. Works out to 1.4 cents a kilowatt hour and it can be parked on an existing industrial site.

Now check out the new First Solar two gigawatt for $6 billion plant in China with a 25% capacity factor. Comes to 7 cents a kilowatt hour and it destroys 26 sq miles of desert to boot. It still needs clean green nuclear to cover for it at night on cloudy days and in the winter, and the nuclear plant has an almost zero fuel cost. Might as well run it 24/7 and forget about the solar.

Site C wrecks 14 sq miles at 6.5 cents a kwh but is baseload power and doesn't require nuclear backup. Still a lot cheaper than 12 cents a kilowatt hour low value some years sometime each spring run of the river power but way more expensive than nuclear.

We are heading for a climate tipping point in as little as ten years and if we are to eliminate BC's green house gas emissions in that time we would need to triple BC's electric capacity with 12 new gigawatts of baseload 24/7 generation. The only possible solution is mass produced nuclear predicted at half the cost per gigawatt of that Ontario Hydro quote.