Common Sense Canadian

BC Hydro vastly underestimates loss of farmland to Site C Dam

PostedSeptember 17, 2014 by in BC

At a recent press conference in Vancouver, renowned agrologist Wendy Holm and lifelong Peace Valley farmer Renee Ardill spoke to the vast, quality farmland that the proposed Site C Dam would flood or disrupt.

“These soils are completely unique,” explained Holm, a past president of the BC Institute of Agrologists.

They are in an east-west running valley with a Class 1 climate. They are alluvial soils. These were undervalued by the BC Hydro process.

In fact, Hydro counted just 13% of the land that would be lost to future agriculture in its environmental report on the dam, Holm charged. She testified earlier to the Joint Review Panel investigating the project that it would render unfarmable over 30,000 acres of quality land – enough to feed a million people.

Ardill, whose family settled in the valley over a century ago, described the direct role Hydro has played in discouraging agriculture there. “I’ve seen the market gardens that have been there in the past. I’ve seen the potato farm that BC Hydro pushed out in the 70’s when they thought they were going to build Site C the first time,” Ardill told the media.

The potential for the agricultural production in that valley is huge.

Both Holm and Ardill noted that the land lost from the project would far outstrip initial predictions, due to a combination of sloughing of the valley’s unstable banks and other forms of disturbance that would make agriculture impossible in the future.


About the Author

Damien Gillis

Damien Gillis is a Vancouver-based documentary filmmaker with a focus on environmental and social justice issues - especially relating to water, energy, and saving Canada's wild salmon - working with many environmental organizations in BC and around the world. He is the co-founder, along with Rafe Mair, of The Common Sense Canadian, and a board member of both the BC Environmental Network and the Haig-Brown Institute.


    James Beaty

    Hydro electric advocates have been conspicuously absent throughout the entire climate debate. The reason being, ignorance and lack of political will. When you factor in the relocation of directly affected populations, loss of productive soils and forest ecosystems the consequences are absolutely staggering. Clean energy? It’s a load of bunk. Hydro electricity is one of the most environmentally destructive forms of energy on the planet. Reservoirs not only impound massive amounts of otherwise flowing water, they completely reverse the natural hydrologic cycle, impacting on fish, wildlife, forestry and agrarian resources. Reservoirs release copious amounts of methane which is 20 times more harmful than carbon as a greenhouse gas, they accelerate shoreline erosion and the introduction and transportation of naturally occurring heavy metals and sediment, the bane of all life forms. Stagnant water evaporates at a rate greater than moving water and accelerates the formation of the most common greenhouse gas of all …. water vapour in the form of clouds. Perhaps the greatest impact of all, are the social impacts. When people are relocated, they loose not only their land, they loose their way of life, their means of livelihood, their history and their future. And for what? Energy the market not for wants or needs in the foreseeable future. To those affected, all I can say is …. fight it with all of your heart.

    Ronald Harwood

    I suggest put the project on hold for now.Maybe we should have a referendum?

    Facts not Fiction

    I would really like to know where these 30,000 acres of alluvial soil are located on the flood plain. While driving through the area all I saw was a hay field and a lot of flood plain that was covered with poplar and willow brush. This article is highly exaggerated.

      Damien Gillis

      I’m sorry, Facts not Fiction. You’re prioritizing your visual survey from the window of a car on a one-hour drive through the valley over the research of esteemed agrologists, including the former president of the Association of BC Agrologists, Wendy Holm? What would you like me to say?! LOL

    Georgina Kirkman

    Lana Popham seems to want to work for food security. that is encouraging.


    We are stuck in a societal paradigm involving development, growth and profit. At some point this type of foundation for a society will not continue to work. The ever increasing ‘rewards’ will be ‘shortages’, conflicts, and a degraded planet.

    Coral Brown

    Did you know the Environment Canada website under sustainable development states, “Sustainable development is development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.
    Then under economic development it states, “Sustainable economic development is that which is conducted without depletion of natural resources.”
    Has BC read this???

      Fred Fonce

      The BC Liberals, under Ms Clark, are utterly devoid of any scruples, morals and integrity whatsoever. It is a cesspool of corruption in Victoria. Why there aren’t criminal investigations of this crew boggles the mind.
      While the BC Liberal trolls keep beating the drum of the 20 year old NDP fast ferry fiasco – with mainstream media only too happy to repeat the trolls’ refrain – Christy and her thugs roll out one scandal after another. It is unconscionable.
      The next election is now way beyond conservative vs progressive politics, sustainable development, LNG or no LNG, progressive taxation policies vs aggressive user tolls, public vs private education etc; this is now about integrity of our province’s highest office and authority.


    degradation of enviroment will be in backseat eventually

    Stuart Meade

    Given recent advances, it’s a good bet that cost of production of power from photovoltaic sources will equal or better the cost of hydro generated power before this dam is ever completed. We should not be rushing into what may turn out to be a boondoogle of epic proportions.

    Joyce Hadland

    Wow! I ate some fantastic sweet red & yellow watermelon this summer from the proposed Site C flooding zone – What a shame that people consider this loss of farmland as no big deal!!! Does everyone think eating a shipped watermelon, ripened artificially & shipped hundred of miles from _??___ is better for us? Our future health is dependent on nutritious food that we don’t have to supplement with vitamin pills!. Do you Agree?


    Gee , BC Hydro gets another “estimate” wrong. Kinda like their estimate on the cost of the new transmission line. Seems they forgot about a few mountains jacked up up almost another 500 million.
    Typical govt. No one at the top is accountable. If they do get “fired” they walk away with a juicy severance.

    Donna Furnival

    Stop them!

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