Clearing Old-Growth to Build a Mega Dam
By Candace Batycki, Program Director, British Columbia and Yukon
In February, First Nations and the B.C. Government announced their agreement to protect 85 percent of the province’s coastal Great Bear Rainforest—a landmark deal that was lauded in the provincial Speech from the Throne. The praise flowed far and wide for the Great Bear achievement, and for good reason: it only came to fruition after years of dedication and hard work from all those involved.
In the northeastern part of the province, however, an entirely different story is unfolding; the antithesis of the forward thinking and collaborative efforts that led to success on the coast.
In the Peace River Valley, BC Hydro is rushing to clear land for construction of the Site C dam—all while First Nations, ranchers and other landowners in the region have clearly and repeatedly stated their strong opposition to the project.
The 17,000-acre (7,000-hectare) Peace-Boudreau region, which hugs the south bank of the Peace River shoreline, features high-quality habitat for a diversity of wildlife—a fact the province recognized as early as 1969, when the region was reserved for provincial park status, and more recently by designating it an Old Growth Management Area. But that didn’t stop the province from approving construction of the Site C dam, which would flood these regions and devastate its ecosystems forever.
On February 29, BC Hydro obtained an injunction against a group of First Nations and local farmers who had been camping in Peace-Boudreau, in the way of bulldozers, since December 31. The group agreed to leave peacefully, but not before reiterating their call for suspending construction until First Nations and landowner lawsuits are settled, and for a federal review of infringement of treaty rights.
As you read this, BC Hydro is removing those old-growth trees in preparation for the massive dam. Unlike normal deforestation, where trees eventually grow back, logging in Peace-Boudreau could well be permanent. The Site C dam would flood roughly 100 kilometers of wildlife-rich valley bottom—destroying a critically under-represented ecosystem in the province.
It would eradicate spring calving grounds for moose, deer and elk and wipe away prime habitat for a range of wildlife species. It would also flood some of BC’s best farmland, forcing farmers off the land they’ve cultivated for generations, and submerge centuries-old cultural artifacts—the legacy of thousands of years of First Nations communities in the valley.
Beyond those local impacts, the dam would severely constrict north-south wildlife movement along the Yellowstone to Yukon corridor—a major issue since the Peace River region is located at the narrowest section of the entire 3,200-kilometer region. The dam’s reservoir would flood vast portions of the region’s remaining intact habitat, and wildlife would face yet another barrier in a region already reeling from intensive industrial development.
There are many ecological and cultural reasons not to build Site C, but it also doesn’t make sense financially. The Site C project would divert almost $9 billion of tax money away from the development of true clean energy solutions, and instead pour that money into construction of a mega dam—an outdated approach to energy production that experts around the world agree should only belong in the history books.
It just so happens that building this dam would also destroy a significant chunk of a provincial protected area—forever.
This is an urgent issue, but there is still time to stop this project. Click here to support legal challenges against the destructive Site C dam.