NDP MLA George Heyman raises serious questions about Site C dam proposal

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      The Opposition critic for the green economy, George Heyman, has a history of supporting measures to slow the advancement of climate change.

      So when the former Sierra Club of B.C. executive director visited the Georgia Straight office today, I asked him why there's such an uproar over the B.C. government's support for the $8.8-billion Site C dam, given that hydropower doesn't emit greenhouse gases.

      "Everything needs to be looked at in context," replied Heyman, the NDP MLA for Vancouver-Fairview. "The problem with Site C is the Liberals went ahead and said they wanted to build it. They subjected it to environmental review by a joint review panel, but they [panellists] were expressly precluded from comparing it to other sources of power, like small-scale wind and solar, or geothermal, which is not so small-scale."

      Heyman noted that the B.C. Liberal government exempted the Site C project from review by the B.C. Utilities Commission. It's an independent body that evaluates how B.C. Hydro can meet demand for electricity in the most cost-effective manner.

      He also accused the government of "a little accounting sleight of hand" by dropping the estimated kilowatt-hour price of Site C power. Heyman suggested that the most appropriate approach would have been to compare the cost of other clean, green power sources to the proper price of producing Site C power based on an accurate assessment of future energy needs.

      "The advantage of looking at other options is you can bring them on as needed," Heyman pointed out. "Many of the technologies are changing very rapidly. The cost of solar [power] has just dropped in a very steep, sharp curve downward."

      He added that the Canadian Geothermal Energy Association recently released a paper suggesting its members could generate electricity at a competitive rate with Site C while creating more employment.

      "They didn't say as the Liberals do—'Trust us,' " Heyman stated. "They said, 'Put the Site C decision on hold for a year while there's an independent assessment done of what we claim is true, and let British Columbians produce the best options.' "

      He emphasized that other options might be more cost-effective and wouldn't result in First Nations' objections to the impact of a massive dam project on their traditional territories.

      In addition, Heyman said that Site C must be seen in the context of the province's future need for food.

      The proposed dam would be the third along the Peace River Valley and would flood approximately 5,500 hectares, including prime agricultural land.

      Heyman pointed out that droughts in California have already increased the cost of produce, and the effects of climate change will only make this situation worse over the next 10 to 30 years.

      "It's going to be harder and harder for us to get food from elsewhere as people focus on feeding themselves," Heyman said. "All of these factors mean that we should have had a more comprehensive review of this plan. If after such a review, the end result is this is the best option from a cost perspective and an environmental perspective, then so be it. But we have no way of knowing that and neither does any other British Columbian because the Liberals simply wouldn't subject it to that kind of independent scrutiny. And it needs to happen."




      Dec 23, 2014 at 7:37pm

      And what happens when the revenue from the tar sands disappears when the federal government t starts cutting transfer payments.

      Cariboo Dan

      Dec 25, 2014 at 12:47am

      This will cause methane problems?
      Good one.
      Ha ha, get real Bill.


      Dec 25, 2014 at 5:23pm

      Intuitively it seems like a bad idea to wreck local farm land. Our region hasn't seen food riots or mass starvation so we tend not to think in such terms. I've never starved but I'd like to keep it that way.

      Cariboo Dan

      Dec 25, 2014 at 8:00pm

      Hey, read Bill's link. It talks about low-draw dams and tropical countries. Site C is neither of those.

      Evie the Aggie

      Dec 26, 2014 at 9:57am

      Methane emissions are hydro-electric power's dirty little secret.


      Dec 27, 2014 at 2:20pm

      How can I get me a job as a critic? Seems everytime I read about the NDP, they have plenty of them. I guess it's like they say, those that can't do - CRITICIZE!!

      the age of supid = BC Hydro (part 2 of 3)

      Dec 28, 2014 at 4:38pm

      The Peace River Valley region was first explored by Sir Alexander MacKenzie in 1789, when he travelled along the Peace River, eventually reaching the Mackenzie River and the Arctic Ocean. In 1793 he used the same route to reach the Pacific Ocean. At the beginning of the 20th century, the farming potential of the area was advertised by the federal government, but settlement was scarce because of difficult travel conditions through the muskeg. With the arrival of the railway in 1916, and following the opening of land for homesteaders in 1910, farming and ranching took off in the fertile Peace Country.

      Please read this incredible article about northeastern BC:

      Early Fur Trade Forts of the Peace River Area of British Columbia (K.R. Fladmark)


      Anyone who has spent time on the Peace River and/or has lived in this amazing region, knows it would be a crime to flood more priceless irreplaceable agricultural land located in the peace river valley located in northeastern Beautiful British Columbia.

      The majority of the population in the province of BC is located in the lower mainland. The majority of these people living in the lower mainland are not aware of the magnitude of potential destruction to the river, the land, and the farmers and families who have lived there for generations. BC Hydro and their site c damn along with the BC provincial government and federal government are relying on out of date methods for creating sustainable energy.

      BC Hydro is only interested in investing in their "hydro-electric heritage" and does not give a damn about our Canadian Heritage which predates BC Hydro and Sir Alexander Mackenzie.

      The agricultural land that surrounds the Peace River is irreplaceable.

      the age of stupidity = BC Hydr0 + Christy Clark + Bill Bennett + PM Harper

      Dec 29, 2014 at 11:14pm

      Thank you Mr. George Heyman for your amazing support. It is extremely refreshing to read this article about an MLA who can comprehend the absolute necessity and vital importance for Canadians to take action now to #StopSiteCDam and #SaveThePeaceRiver and #RiverNotReservoir.

      What the majority of BC and Canada do not realize is that the PEace River Valley is one of the most fertile in Canada. It would be an enormous error for BC Hydro to be allowed to build Site C Dam on the Peace River.

      If BC Hydro builds Site C on the Peace River, this dam would be the third of four major dams on the Peace River that were initially proposed in the mid-twentieth century. The first project is the flagship W. A. C. Bennett Dam 19 kilometres west of Hudson's Hope. That facility was completed in 1967 and began operation in 1968. Construction of the Peace Canyon Dam was completed in 1980 at a point 23 km downstream of the W. A. C. Bennett dam. The third dam – "Site C" – was also proposed at the time for a site 83 km downriver of the Peace Canyon dam, or approximately 7 km southwest of Fort St. John. The initial proposal was never completed, however it was turned down after BC Utilities Commission hearings in 1983.

      It is extremely important to notice this:

      "Heyman noted that the B.C. Liberal government exempted the Site C project from review by the B.C. Utilities Commission. It's an independent body that evaluates how B.C. Hydro can meet demand for electricity in the most cost-effective manner."

      No doubt if BC Utilities were included in the Site C Dam review it would not have been pushed through.

      Site C Dam proposal and all supporting documentation needs to be shredded = stopped FOREVER.

      Write to your MLA and your MP and Christy Clark and Bill Bennett and PM Harper. No postage is required on mail sent to these government officials.

      There needs to be a massive awareness protest about site c dam now.

      Please help to Keep the Peace River and the Peace River Valley free from anymore dams forever.

      Preserve the Peace River from BC Hydro's destruction

      Jan 1, 2015 at 1:29pm

      The first white men to see the area were Alexander Mackenzie and his crew in 1793. The first fur trade post, called Rocky Mountain Portage House, was established by the North West Company in 1805.

      In 1883, the “Peace River Block,” a parcel of land 3.5 million acres in size, was transferred from BC to the federal government. Unfortunately, this slowed the development of the area, but in 1907, land was surveyed for farming from Fort St. John to the western side of Hudson’s Hope.

      The Bennett Dam created Williston Lake or Reservoir, one of the largest man-made lakes in the world. It is 300 km long, covers an area of 1,773 square km, and has been a subject of some controversy. The river banks were not logged before the reservoir was flooded, so there was and continues to be a great deal of dead heads and floating debris in the lake. The shores are unnatural and have severe erosion – sandstorms are common on windy days. Rising and falling lake levels create ugly shores prone to erosion. Many natives who lived in villages along the river were forcibly relocated as their lands were flooded; many early homesteads and trapper’s cabins are now underwater as well.

      Williston Reservoir flooded the Rocky Mountain Trench and what Alexander Mackenzie’s crew called the “ne parlez pas” rapids, since they didn’t make a great deal of noise upon approach. The dam also flooded the Finlay and Parsnip Rivers – the Parsnip is the river Mackenzie followed.

      The second hydroelectric dam, Peace Canyon Dam, completed in 1980, created the Dinosaur Lake Reservoir. At 21 km (13 miles) long, it is much smaller than Williston Reservoir, and its creation flooded the legendary Peace Canyon Rapids. The river through the rapids on the whole dropped 68 metres (225 feet) over 29 km (18 miles), which is now under Dinosaur Lake and Williston Reservoir. Alexander Mackenzie described them in May of 1793 by saying “…the river above us, as far as we could see, was one white sheet of foaming water.” Local native peoples had warned Mackenzie about these rapids and told him about an established portage trail, but he didn’t use it — he and his crew instead went farther upstream, with great difficulty, and when they could make no more progress, they portaged up and over Portage Mountain. The native trail was an easier if longer route, going around the mountain.

      Our Canadian Heritage flooded by BC Hydro.