David Suzuki: Will Site C dam be Gordon Campbell’s legacy in Peace River country?

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      One of Canada’s longest-serving politicians, Gordon Campbell, recently stepped down as leader of the B.C. Liberal Party and premier of British Columbia. Campbell’s long tenure as premier was fraught with contradictions when it came to the environment.

      He brought in an ambitious plan to tackle climate change, including mandatory targets for reducing greenhouse gases, a more energy-efficient building code, and North America’s strongest carbon tax, for which he received widespread support from many climate scientists, environmentalists, and economists. Putting a price on the carbon pollution that causes global warming is one of the most effective tools a government can employ to bring greenhouse gas emissions down quickly.

      Despite B.C.’s leadership on the carbon tax, Premier Campbell’s government also committed more than $1 billion in subsidies to oil and gas companies and aggressively pushed mega-energy projects that are at odds with the need to shift B.C. from costly and environmentally damaging forms of energy to low-impact renewable power generation. Perhaps no mega-energy plan has generated as much controversy as resurrecting the dam proposal for Site C on the Peace River. During his last few months as premier, Campbell announced that the government will move ahead with the assessment stage for the massive $6.6-billion hydroelectric dam, near the town of Fort St. John in northeast B.C. This dam would be the third major hydro development on one of B.C.’s most picturesque waterways. The Peace River flows for about 2,000 kilometres from the Rocky Mountain alpine in the west, then northeast across Alberta, eventually joining the Athabasca-Mackenzie watershed on its way to the Arctic Ocean. The dam would flood the highly productive lower Peace Valley.

      The Lower Peace River and its associated ecosystems support a diverse range of wildlife, including threatened populations of bull trout, grizzly bears, wolverines, and countless other plants and animals. Because of its fertile soils, moderate climate, and accessible terrain, the bottomlands along its banks and gentle valley slopes have supported farming families for more than a century. These farmers grow forage, cereal, and oilseed crops, as well as raise cattle and growing market gardens.

      When Premier Campbell announced his plans, he did so at a news conference in front of an earlier hydro-development project, the W.A.C. Bennett Dam, a few kilometres upstream from the Site C dam location. With the W.A.C. Bennett Dam and its massive reservoir as his backdrop, the premier argued that the proposed Site C dam would provide a clean and renewable source of energy. But to First Nations and other local people whose traditional lands and farms were flooded and livelihoods destroyed by the W.A.C. Bennett Dam in the 1960s, the prospect of yet another dam that will flood long sections of the Peace River Valley, destroying farms and forest, is unacceptable.

      The 60-metre-tall Site C dam is designed to produce 900 megawatts a year, enough electricity to power 400,000 homes. Although it will generate power with a far lower greenhouse gas footprint than an energy source such as coal, the project, according to opponents, is not needed to meet B.C.’s energy demands and will result in unacceptably high ecological and social costs—most notably the destruction of thousands of hectares of ungulate winter range and important hunting, trapping, and fishing grounds; the loss of precious farmland; and the possible contamination of waters and wildlife with toxic mercury.

      In September, First Nations elders, youth, and elected officials, along with non-native farmers and ranchers, travelled 1,300 kilometres from the Peace Valley to Victoria to present the premier with a historic declaration opposing the dam. The document was signed by 23 First Nations from across B.C., Alberta, and the Northwest Territories.

      The declaration was wrapped in a traditional birch bark container, from trees growing in the flood zone of the proposed dam. And while neither Premier Campbell nor anyone from his government would meet with the delegation to accept their declaration, it was later formally introduced into the legislature by the NDP Opposition.

      Premier Campbell leaves office with a growing movement against the dam that he championed. Many British Columbians believe that the environmental costs associated with big hydro are just too high and that the next premier of B.C. must make lower-impact renewable energy sources—like solar, wind, geothermal, and other technologies—the basis of our energy future.

      Learn more at www.davidsuzuki.org.




      Mar 8, 2011 at 11:13pm

      David is quite correct that Site C would be the wrong move for BC.

      Site C costs start at $14B/GW based on old estimates but newer figures have it at $20B/GW with transmission charges. Site C is as bad a GHG producer as coal with the methane emissions coming from its destruction of 10000 hectares of prime BC farmland.

      Wind power very expensive very destructive at $15B/Gw + a minimum of $8B a GW for transmission line and $2B/GW for minimal pumped hydro storage. A massive source of GHG's for clearcuts required for the farm, roads and transmission line.

      Solar is a no brainer for space/water heating but at $45B/GW + storage + transmission it's worthless as an electicity source.

      Geothermal without high pressure supercritical steam and and earthquake solutions is an expensive novelty.

      The Brits just dumped tidal and there are no real large scale demo's going.

      Best to let the US/Euro governments with all their resources come up with an answers to workable renewable power before investing ourselves.

      BC gets only 30% of its energy requirements from relatively clean electricity, the rest coming from filthy petrol and natural gas product. We have to decide whether to launch a unilateral war on GHG's or more prudently wait for an international concensus.

      The aim would be for all future BC energy supply being electricity supplemented with solar heating and low hanging fruit conservation

      Really the only possible source for that electricity is nuclear power at $2B/Gw (10% of Site C).

      The Candu 6E nuclear reactor has been built all over the world at that cost in 4 years or less - the latest in 2007 in Romania. Its successor the ACR-1000 just approved by the CNSC is being quoted at $2.5B/GW which AECL claims will drop to under $1B/Gw after the first twenty or so are built.

      If the $65B BCHydro has committed to run of the river IPP's had been spent on Candu 6 nuclear power instead, BC Hydro would be 100% off fossil fuels and exporting clean and green nuke power in the next five years.

      There are no environmental impacts of a nuclear reactor with the tiny amount of waste fuel perfectly contained until burned up on site by new compact GenIV nukes. In fact the Candu reactor can burn repackaged used nuke fuel rods from American PWR reactors producing no net waste.

      Nuclear power is now at a 72% acceptance in BC according to a recent survey. When citizens are educated on nuclear power and realize power bills are many times higher with hydro and wind opposition would largerly disappear.

      The Carbon tax really is a pointless to little too late exercise. The recent increase in gasoline prices is in effect an immense carbon tax and yet has had no effect on BC's GHG consumption.

      Much more useful would be public transit but only if coupled with large disincentives and fees to cripple the automobile commuter.

      Even better large scale government support has to be given to 3 day work week and telecommuting measures. These plans need to be made mandatory starting with the government forcing management to ensure any employee who can work a three day work week or telecommute does so.

      Supporting some sort of ICBC changes and taxi rules which would encourage ride sharing would be another easy target.

      A phenomena called Slugging — The People’s Transit basically hitching at a park and ride is a great start.


      Much could be done but politicians are too afraid of losing the vote of the uninformed or the campaign donations and other favors of the special interest group to act responsibly. I'd suggest a citizens assembly type process where a random group of average citizens is selected and paid well to listen to interest groups and experts, gather information and make a decision based on knowledge not one liners from Vaughn and Keith. Here's an example of how



      Mar 9, 2011 at 11:36am

      "filthy petrol"? If you want to be taken seriously you need to grow up.

      Here we see Suzuki playing his one-note harp again... most of us think it sounds like crap, but of course there are always a few no-minds who think he's right on. GHG emissions are irrelevant, since science has been telling us for a long time that man's CO2 is not significant.
      Catch up, you Suzuki Sheep. Site C should go ahead and will, hydroelectric power from huge projects is exactly what makes BC power green. Pretending it's not green because it exists; that is, there is construction, a reservoir, "lost farmland"(TM), only makes it obvious how weak-minded you antis are. Not at all shy about looking complete fools. You do know that the green left were ALL in favor of run-of-the-river... until it became apparent that BC Hydro unions wouldn't be building them. That's where you lefty noisemakers come from - whoever is paying for your loud mouth shenanigans. That's why most of you can't even discuss the issue you're pretending to be concerned about - you have NO CLUE! Your spoon-fed talking points are BS.

      Did someone Fart*

      Mar 9, 2011 at 1:08pm

      Excuse me please. I did not know if that was appropriate. But it is what it feels like when "someone" comes and rants and raves when your just trying to have a dicussion or a read . It is how I learn things, become informed about things that matter to me. Want to change my mind, give me the facts not the rants, please.

      Charles John

      Mar 9, 2011 at 5:31pm

      David Suzuki lost any legitimacy to comment on provincial environmental matters during the last provincial election kissing up to Gordon Campbell and his right wing corporate regime.

      I blame Suzuki for Campbell's continued reign of error and ongoing enviro terror.

      Fracking, IPP's, run of river, Prosperity Mine, Jumbo. All are here as a result of Suzuki's complicity with the BC Liberals.

      Time to just go away David - you have had your time and then some, maybe Stephen Harper will appoint you to the Senate.

      Ken Boon

      Mar 10, 2011 at 6:21am

      Conservation must be # 1 on every ones list. Generation of power closer to source, this will reduce line loss. Why is BC destroying valleys for export, the US agrees this as not green and are decommissioning dams.
      Please consider the environment before flooding the Peace River valley.

      Steve Y

      Mar 10, 2011 at 10:06am

      welldoneson - absolutely right about run of river power... it was the left and greenies great hope until it was privatized... then it became absolutely evil

      -ken boon - conservation = lower living standards.. I want to be able to hop into my car and fly to paris in an hour... i want a robot to be able to go grocery shopping for me...i want a 3000 inch tv/wall or hologram room... all these things are going to require a lot of energy. Figuring out ways to make electricity and power more expensive is the wrong way to go. I want cheaper energy.

      In general, I like how all of the sudden there is "prime farmland" up there... growing hay 3months of the year. That's not what i consider "prime farmland". All the people who are against this project might as well get the heck out of BC and go to where you came from because you are anti-everything.

      Class 1 land lady

      Mar 10, 2011 at 4:36pm

      Dear Steve there always has been "prime farmland" in the north and it will be there when the demand for a different crop is needed. When energy is cheap it will be wasted.

      Jillian Ridington

      Mar 11, 2011 at 11:45am

      David Suzuki is right on this one, but he doesn't mention that the Site-C dam would flood critical moose habitat and drown the islands in the river where the moose have their calves. Moose hunting is still an important component of the cultural and economic life of the Dane-zaa, Cree and Sateau people who live in the area. Most of the power will be exported to the US or sent to Alberta to power the oil sands. Site-C must not go ahead!


      Oct 20, 2011 at 6:34pm

      we should not be daming anymore rivers to provide cheap power to big mining corperations. We should be looking at thermal energy as well a wind power. As well as clean burning garbage plants like the one at Hartland rd dump site in Victoria BC where they sell their excess power to the city of Victoria.Campbell and his buddys should be charged and jailed for selling of the heritage of the children of the future .You worship the god of greed and do not even care about the future of your own children.


      Feb 15, 2012 at 5:48pm

      I live downstream in Northern Alberta in the community of Fort Vermilion and think that this "site C" dam is wrong. Everybody who lives downstream of these dams either cannot fish because of high water as a result of the dam releasing water or cannot boat in certain parts of the river as a result of low levels of water. I run the water treatment plant and we pump water directly from the Peace River and we are finding that there are times that we cannot pump water as the river is too low. It is a pain to depend on the dam in b.c. as to when we can enjoy the river to either fish or swim on the many sandbars that this river provides. This dam will do more harm than good to everybody downstream, but we are just small communities of Metis' and Cree that have no voice.