As heavy rain continues falling on the Peace Valley in northeastern British Columbia, opponents of the proposed Site C hydro dam are calling out BC Hydro for failing to consider the instability of the Peace River’s clay banks.
Citing three major landslides in the region over the past fifty years, the West Moberly First Nations and Peace Valley Environmental Association (PVEA) are “challenging the sanity” of building Site C downstream of unstable, clay banks.
“First Nations have known about the instability of this river for generations. Over the past century, we have witnessed several serious slides in the section of river proposed for flooding for the Site C Dam,” said Chief Roland Willson of the West Moberly First Nations.
More than 230 homes were damaged and highways washed out during heavy rainfall in the region near the end of June.
Another 100 millimetres fell on the region July 7 and 8, forcing PVEA to cancel the canoeing portion of its 6th annual Paddle for the Peace event that promotes opposition to the Site C dam proposal.
In a press release announcing the cancellation of the canoe trip, PVEA spokesperson Andrea Morison said that high water levels, massive debris and the potential for slides from the clay banks created dangerous conditions for paddlers.
Site C would be the third dam on BC’s section of the Peace River.
The project has entered a provincial environmental assessment, but a federal environmental assessment has not yet been initiated.
The proposed dam would stand 60m high and 1,100m long, and flood a 100 km stretch of the Peace Valley.
BC Hydro claims that the dam is necessary to prevent the province from having to import power during peak load times.
The public utility says the 900 megawatt dam will have the capacity to power 550,000 homes.
But Willson told The Journal his First Nation believes most of the power from the dam will be used for five mining projects in the Horn plateau.
“We feel it’s our responsibility and the responsibility of governments to protect BC’s people and our irreplaceable environment. This dam has got to be stopped,” Willson said.
Communities downstream of the proposed dam, including Fort Chipewyan, AB and Fort Smith, NWT, have long argued that another dam on the Peace River will irreversibly affect river flow and water levels in the Peace Athabasca Delta (PAD), Slave River and Slave River Delta.
First Nation elders in Fort Chipewyan watched the water regime in the PAD change significantly in the late 1960s after BC Hydro built the first Peace River hydro project, the Bennett Dam.
Since then water levels in the PAD have continued to decline, and major floods – the lifeblood of the delta – have become increasingly rare.
Project completion dates for the Site C dam are slated for 2020-2021, but there is no guarantee that both the provincial and federal governments will give the project the green light.