Category Archives: Hydropower

Rafe- Weaver, BC Greens should quit supporting private river power sham

Rafe: Weaver, BC Greens should quit backing private river power sham

Rafe- Weaver, BC Greens should quit supporting private river power sham
Dr. Andrew Weaver, leader of the BC Green Party, has long supported IPPs

It’s been a disappointing week. We all have them.

In a moment, I’ll get to my frustration with the BC Green Party and its leader Dr. Andrew Weaver – but my disappointment started with a letter from Fair Voting Canada (FVC) in answer to a letter from me offering support in their fight for reform of our voting system.

As you know, the Trudeau government has set up a committee to hear evidence in order to bring forth a bill to change the system from First Past The Post (FPTP) to some form of Proportional Representation (PR).

Though it has nothing to do with their bleated moral virtue but everything to do with getting past the next election still under FPTP the Tories tendentiously insist that there must be a referendum.

I have a manuscript into the publisher on the Canadian Constitution which really could be called “the constitution for dummies”. Meaning no disrespect, it’s an uncomplicated look at how we run things and puts forward some options for reform. I offered this book to FVC, no strings attached, but then we hit upon a serious problem.

System be left to reform itself

My position was taken after considerable study and some 40 years of experience in the field at the highest level. I examined FPTP, PR, Alternative Voting, and STV as recommended by the BC Electoral Assembly in in 2008.

While FVC and I came to the same conclusion, FVC would not have a referendum but would leave implementation entirely to the Parliament of Canada – which is saying to Mr. Trudeau and his whipped Liberal caucus.

It seems to me, and I hate to use this word about such sincere people, that it’s pretty hypocritical to call for “fair voting” and deny the vote to people on the very issue at stake. The morality is scarcely improved by the fact they agree with Trudeau’s position but, intended or not, is “we know best” elitism. I want the same thing but know that unless it comes from the people, it will never really be legitimate and never fully accepted.

Obeying the elites

The reason – I would call it an excuse – that FVC gives is that it will be too late, thanks to the delays of the Harper government, to hold a referendum in time for the next election. Therefore, goes the reasoning, the lousy system we used to let this crowd in, because time is awkward, will be replaced by one we who know best have selected!

This smacks of the discipline Canadians traditionally impose upon themselves in favour of the pronouncements of the elite. It just goes back, I suppose, to British autocracy as represented in our Constitution, which doesn’t talk about liberty, but “peace, order, and good government”. Somehow, even in 2016, we’re prepared to obey the elites rather than think for ourselves. The elites know that, so don’t trouble us with things like referenda.

I ask FVC and their allies like Leadnow: What the hell are you afraid of? How can you possibly want to improve a democracy by denying democracy and then pretend that you have actually reformed the country?

Greens don’t get it on Hydro

My second disappointment was with the BC Green Party and in particular its leader Dr. Andrew Weaver.

I consider myself a Green, though not a Party member, and am a huge fan of their national leader Elizabeth May. My attraction to the Greens is that they honour the environment with political muscle while at the same time recognizing that people must work, live and eat. Unlike other parties, they don’t see these as mutually exclusive ideas.

I have tried to meet with Dr. Weaver on a number of occasions but it hasn’t happened. My quarrel with him and the party is a very simple one.

In 2003 the Gordon Campbell government brought in the infamous “energy plan” which essentially did two things – it denied BC Hydro the right to make any new power other than Site C and mandated that all future power must be made by private power companies – euphemistically branded Independent Power Producers (IPPs). Their power would be sold to BC Hydro at inflated prices with our crown corporation forced to take all the power the private companies produce, whether they need it or not.

Construction of a private power project on the Ashlu River (Photo: Range Life)
Construction of a private power project on the Ashlu River (Photo: Range Life)

This was sold by the Campbell government as being environmentally neutral because the companies would all be little “Mom and Pop” operations, the rivers wouldn’t be dammed, just an unobtrusive little weir, and the flow of water unimpeded. Therefore, we could expect no environmental damage. At the time I kept and still have the video of Finance Minister Colin Hansen peddling this crap.

I came into the picture, along with Damien Gillis and others in 2008. I was on a sharp learning curve mainly because I could not believe what I was being told.

It was not long before I found that these IPPs were very substantial operations. The weirs were large obstructions, whether called a dam or not; the water flow was seriously impeded (up to 95% of a river’s flow diverted through large pipes or bus-sized tunnels for miles); when the salmon runs came up the river, it was low water and the artificial channels built to accommodate them were a bad joke. The foliage around the rivers was destroyed for the purposes of the “dam” and transmission lines, there were trees cut down and roads built and so-called “Mom and Pop” operations were mostly subsidiaries of large, mostly American companies, who took our money out of the country. The whole program as started by the Campbell government and perpetuated by Clark was bullshit.

IPPs are a financial scam for BC

I consulted with a number of people, including highly-regarded economist Erik Andersen, and saw that the financial arrangements BC Hydro was forced to make were ruinous, and would inevitably lead to bankruptcy in a fairly short period of time.

Putting this all together, Damien and I, working on behalf of the Save Our Rivers Society, were joined by others – and I particularly note Joe Foy of the Wilderness Committee – and we toured the Province, often speaking at meetings put on for the same purpose by COPE 378, during the 2009 election, telling people, chapter and verse, what was going on. The story we told, as I related above, just seemed too preposterous for people to believe. No government would be so careless of the environment, so negligent about BC Hydro and its finances as we were stating. Evidently, Dr. Andrew Weaver, now leader of the Green party, couldn’t accept the obvious either, and campaigned vigorously on behalf of the Liberal energy policy, ignoring the easily available information I had, declaring it was “clean energy”.

I wouldn’t now hold this against Dr. Weaver if he had taken a little time to see what has happened since but he hasn’t and still supports the Liberals on this point.

Rates soar as Hydro buckles under private debt

It’s just as Erik Andersen and other economists predicted, except much worse. Rivers, salmon runs, aquatic life and vegetation have been destroyed, just as Joe, Damien and I predicted.

On the economic front, I don’t think I have to tell you what has happened to BC Hydro. It has been well reported and must have been seen by Dr. Weaver. As a direct consequence of this economic catastrophe visited upon BC Hydro by the Campbell/Clark energy policy,  that Weaver supports, our once great Crown corporation is now de facto bankrupt.

This is hardly just Rafe Mair or Damien Gillis talking. Readers of The Common Sense Canadian have seen the evidence build over the past few years as we reported it. The tragic figures are now common knowledge and available on the Internet. You have all seen the numbers and know the terrible shape BC Hydro is in. As a reminder, here’s blogger Norm Farrell’s explanation:

[quote]…from 1996 to 2016, purchases from independent power producers (IPPs) soared by 839% to 14,877 GWh, which cost about $1.3 billion in the current fiscal year. According to BC Public Accounts, the obligation to IPPs is $1.85 billion in the year ended March 2016.[/quote]

Alas, that’s not all. We have Site C which will certainly cost more than $10 Billion to produce energy we don’t need, and without any customers unless Christy Clark comes up with an LNG industry to supply countries that don’t need it, in a world market with a massive glut of gas.

Weaver still backs IPPs

Sadly, while Dr. Andrew Weaver has spoken out of late against Site C Dam, he and the BC Green Party fully support the Campbell/Clark energy policy and the continued enriching of the rich while bankrupting BC Hydro. If you wish to confirm this, listen to the Ian Jessop Show on CFAX from December 17 1 PM slot (the second interview, start listening around the 41 min mark). It’s worth the trouble.

There, you will hear Dr. Weaver still praising private power – only criticizing the Liberals’ lack of environmental monitoring and enforcement. What he fails to recognize or admit is that this industry has never been monitored, nor any protections enforced, since day one, which is precisely what we’ve been warning for nearly a decade now. This is not some mere wrinkle or oversight – it’s exactly how a privatized system is designed to work.

I’m keenly disappointed. I honestly believed that a party had appeared that British Columbians could support and I no longer believe that. I have written to Dr. Weaver and advised him of that.

The result, then, at this moment in time, is that the Christy Clark government has had a huge stroke of luck, assuming that John Horgan and the NDP don’t follow Damien’s advice here a few days ago – and they show no signs of doing so. Better the party loses an election than the leader loses face.

This, then, is the extent of the tragedy and you can understand, I think, why this is a disappointing moment.


Ex-Hydro CEO: Injunction vs. Site C campers “Fundamentally flawed”

Former BC Hydro CEO Marc Eliesen testifying at National Energy Board hearing
Former BC Hydro CEO Marc Eliesen testifying at National Energy Board hearing

Republished with permission from Desmog Canada

By Sarah Cox

Former BC Hydro CEO Marc Eliesen says BC Hydro’s claim that a one-year delay in Site C dam construction will add $420 million to the project’s $8.8 billion cost is “effectively illusionary” and based on “fundamentally flawed” analysis.

Eliesen made the statement in an affidavit filed February 16 in the B.C. Supreme Court, in response to BC Hydro’s application for an injunction to remove Peace Valley farmers and First Nations members from a camp they have occupied since New Year’s Eve.

Injunction could lead to arrests

Treaty 8 Steward of the Land Helen Knott at Rocky Mountain Fort camp (facebook)
A Treaty 8 Steward of the Land at Rocky Mountain Fort camp (facebook)

The application, to be heard February 22, seeks to prohibit anyone from physically interfering with Site C work or counseling others to do the same. If the application is approved, campers who remain at the site will risk arrest.

The peaceful camp, at the Rocky Mountain Fort site on the Peace River’s south bank, has prevented clearcut logging of the surrounding old-growth forest in preparation for Site C flooding. Court documents filed by BC Hydro say the area around the fort site must be cleared immediately because it is slated for a “potentially acid-generating” waste rock dump. The documents note that a berm will be constructed to prevent waste from entering the Peace River.

In his affidavit, Eliesen, who has also headed Ontario Hydro and the Manitoba Energy Authority, says BC Hydro’s testimony in support of the injunction application “fails to provide the proper and comprehensive historical context of BC Hydro’s determinations regarding this project” and is “without merit.”

Eliesen: Site C delays save ratepayers millions

In a January 28 affidavit, Site C Commercial Manager Michael Savidant claims that a one-year delay in logging will inflate the cost of Site C construction by $420 million, an increase of $245 million over his previous statements about the cost of a one-year delay.

Savidant, who has worked for BC Hydro since 2004 and who previously worked for Enron Canada, says the revised costs of a delay include $100 million for inflation and $160 million “of increased interest costs due to future higher rates.”

Eliesen’s affidavit says that delaying Site C is likely to save B.C. ratepayers “more than BC Hydro’s alleged $420 million costs” of delay. That is due to BC Hydro’s own projections for decreasing demand for electricity, particularly among heavy users such as the pulp and paper industry. Under the circumstances, Eliesen says, proceeding with Site C right now is “highly imprudent.”

US economist agrees

In a separate affidavit addressing the injunction application, U.S. energy economist Robert McCullough testifies that a one-year delay in construction would save B.C. ratepayers $268 million, a two-year delay would save $519 million, and a five-year delay would result in net savings of $1.18 billion. McCullough says savings result from Site C power sold at a loss due to a “dramatic fall in world energy prices since 2008.”

“Irreparable harm”?

Site C not necessary until at least 2029, BC Hydro's own numbers show
Early Site C construction in the Peace River (Donald Hoffmann)

In court documents to support its injunction application, BC Hydro claims the seven-week camp has prevented logging from taking place around the fort site and is causing damage and “irreparable harm” to the crown corporation.

The injunction application follows a civil suit against the campers launched in mid-January by BC Hydro. The suit claims damages against six of the campers, including Peace Valley farmers Ken and Arlene Boon and Helen Knott, a social worker from the Prophet River First Nation.

BC Hydro has taken this aggressive move of intimidation in terms of suing us,” Knott said in an interview.

[quote]In the northeast region where I’m from there’s a lot of oil and gas industry. We’re not against development. This is the project where we’re saying ‘No, this is enough. It’s too much. You’re crossing the line.’[/quote]

Campers get support

Knott, who is currently in Toronto speaking about the Rocky Mountain Fort camp at an Amnesty International event, was served with the civil lawsuit when she was visiting Peace Valley farmer Esther Pedersen. Pedersen has been collecting food donations for the camp from local residents and businesses. A road right-of-way on her farm has also been used by helicopters that flew to the camp, including one that brought scientist David Suzuki and Grand Chief Stewart Phillip from the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs to visit and dropped off a second survival shack for the campers.

“We’re getting letters from older ladies who are baking pies and making soups [for the camp] and shows of solidarity from across Canada,” said Knott. “It’s pretty amazing.”

The campers, who call themselves the Treaty 8 Stewards of the Land, are asking for Site C construction to be halted until five legal cases against the dam are resolved and the federal government can review Site C’s potential infringement on constitutionally-protected treaty rights.

Rescind questionable permits, say critics

The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, Amnesty International and two dozen other national and B.C. groups have asked the federal government to rescind Site C permits granted by the Harper government. The Union of B.C. Municipalities has also called for a moratorium on Site C.

Eliesen’s affidavit says Site C has not been subject to “an adequate level of due diligence” to determine if the project is needed, if energy alternatives have been adequately explored, and if the timing of construction is appropriate.

Need for project not demonstrated

Eliesen points out that the Joint Review Panel which examined Site C for the federal and provincial governments concluded that BC Hydro had not demonstrated a need for the project and recommended it be sent to the watchdog B.C. Utilities Commission for scrutiny, which is also a request from the campers. The B.C. government has exempted Site C from the commission’s oversight.

Fort site holds historical artifacts, cultural materials

Court documents filed by BC Hydro state that further excavation of the fort site will be conducted this spring to search for remains of historic aboriginal encampments dating from the late 1700s and early 1800s when the fort served as a provisioning centre for the fur trade industry.

Survey work by a BC Hydro contractor last summer and fall found evidence of cultural materials, including modified historical artifacts, which are “possible” indicators of aboriginal encampments, according to the documents. The documents say the B.C. government notified all Treaty 8 First Nations and other aboriginal groups about the findings on January 18, after a report on the findings was submitted to the Archaeology Branch of the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources three days earlier (and following the first media report on the issue in a January 8 DeSmog story).

The Rocky Mountain Fort site, a designated Class 1 heritage site, is one of 40 heritage sites that would be destroyed by the Site C dam when it floods 107 kilometres of the Peace River and its tributaries. BC Hydro’s court documents claim that any delays in logging around the fort site will impact the entire project.

In the early 1990s, when Eliesen was BC Hydro’s CEO and President, BC Hydro issued a public statement on behalf of its Board of Directors, saying that Site C would not proceed due to First Nations rights, and economic, social and environmental factors.

NOTE: BC Hydro’s injunction application will be heard by the BC Supreme Court Monday. Supporters of the Treaty 8 Stewards of the Land are encouraged to attend.



Rafe: Shame on Premier Clark for playing Site C politics at Bill Bennett’s funeral

BC Premier Christy Clark speaks at former Premier Bill Bennett's funeral (Province of BC/flickr)
BC Premier Christy Clark speaks at former Premier Bill Bennett’s funeral (Province of BC/flickr)

You will, I hope, overlook my coarse language, because I am really pissed off and have been for some time, the slow burn reaching a raging conflagration when I read a quote from the premier which I will give you in a moment.

I am an environmentalist and have been for many years and you’re entitled to know what I did about this when I had the chance as Environment Minster in 1979, 36 years ago. Here’s the record and, as Casey Stengel, used to say, “you could look it up”.

In a 12 month period, I stopped the killing of wolves in the north in the face bitter opposition from the ranching community who were almost all Socreds; saved the Skagit River from being flooded by Seattle Light and Power, to the horror of Socred MLAs in the area who slavered at the thought of the development that would come from the dam being raised, and placed a moratorium on exploration for and mining of uranium – to bitter condemnation from the mining community. The Premier, who supported me in the face of considerable opposition, was the late Bill Bennett.

Clark’s version of dam history doesn’t hold water

Last Sunday, I listened in horror as Premier Christy Clark, at Mr. Bennett’s Memorial Service, would you believe, accused him of being the author of Site C, alleging that she was simply fulfilling his wishes.

She promised to finish Bennett’s vision for the controversial Site C Dam project:

[quote]Premier Bennett, you got it started and I will get it finished. I will get it past the point of no return.[/quote]

Not only was this terrible timing, it was a ghastly distortion of the truth.

Site C has long been a policy of BC Hydro, but, for it to ever be a reality, required the approval of the BC government. BC Hydro always has schemes and until they are approved, they are no more than dreams of Hydro engineers. Dave Barrett, Bill Bennett, Bill Vander Zalm, Rita Johnston, Mike Harcourt, Glen Clark, Dan Miller, and Ujjal Dosanjjh all had an opportunity to approve Site C and did not.

In 1993, the chair of BC Hydro announced that it would not go ahead because it was simply bad policy.

So who approved it?

None other than Premier Clark’s predecessor, Gordon Campbell, and it was then confirmed by her. For Christy Clark, of all people, to associate herself with a great premier was bad enough – to have her lie through her teeth about him is just too much.

The Forces of “No”

I supported the Paris agreement, which was also supported by Prime Minister Trudeau and – wait for it – Premier Clark. The essence of this agreement was a condemnation of fossil fuels and their egregious ill-effect on the atmosphere.

Now, this obviously means we should no longer extract the Tar Sands and that British Columbia should no longer consider passing it through in pipelines or otherwise. For saying this, to Alberta and many Eastern reporters, I’m a “bad Canadian”!

How the hell can you be opposed to the Tar Sands as the world’s worst polluter, commit yourself to the resolutions at Paris, and then act as an accessory to shipping the very same stuff to places that will use it and pollute the atmosphere?

Now, given that the premier supported Paris, wouldn’t you think that at least she would go to bat for those of us now being gloriously insulted as a bad Canadians because we not only support Paris in theory but in practice as well?

Ah, no. Here’s what Premier Christy Clark had to say recently about people like me and maybe thee:

[quote]The world is being divided into two – the people that will say no to everything and the people who want to find a way to get to yes. I’m not sure what science the forces of “no” bring together up there [in northwest BC], except that it’s not really about the science. It’s not really about the fish. It’s just about trying to say no. It’s about fear of change. It’s about fear of the future.[/quote]

The premier is clearly referring to the Lelu Island situation and the First Nations refusing a billion dollar bribe to permit a pipeline to destroy their salmon. When we in the Howe Sound area oppose the proposed LNG plant in Squamish as people oppose the same thing in Bamberton on Saanich Inlet, we will no doubt be “bad Canadians”, as will those who oppose tanker traffic in other sensitive areas. If you put the environment on the top of your list of priorities, as did the First Nations of Lelu Island, you are a despised “no” person.

Premier Clark is clearly questioning the loyalty and the motivation of people who refuse to support development for development’s sake, irrespective of environmental consequences. It’s one thing to be persuaded that a project is sound, quite another for your Premier to insult you if you question her judgment or social philosophy.

There are better ways

If standing against pipelines, Site C, depletion of our fish resources, ruination of our agricultural land and so on is disloyal, may I assure Premier Clark that, far from being disloyal to our beloved British Columbia, it’s to her and her damned party who would destroy the province to satisfy their own philosophy and their greedy supporters.

Of course, everyone knows there must be development and that development will usually disturb the environment. That’s unavoidable. What is avoidable is doing this when there is no substantial need for doing so or when there are other, better ways. For example, I don’t advocate a giving up of power or energy – I advocate finding better ways of developing and transporting it.

We have better ways. This is not pie-in-the-sky from the 60s and the 70s. Alternative sources of energy are not only now available but the techniques for getting that power into the grid are here and very doable.

The Campbell/Clark government and BC Hydro have not pursued other more cost-effective, more environmentally benign and less risky technologies such as wind, biomass, geothermal and solar power, such as is the case in Germany and California, where wind power alone supplies 10 per cent and 6.5 per cent of annual energy consumption respectively.

Any amount of energy derived from these more benign energy sources would obviously help to significantly defer, or possibly eliminate, the need for the Site C project – a need which the Joint Review Panel and even BC Hydro itself openly question.

Commitment and Leadership

To find alternatives to fossil fuels and gigantic Hydro projects requires commitment and leadership. It’s always going to be easier to do it the same old way, keep your friends and bagmen happy and pretend that nothing bad is going to happen even though that’s not true. While it is more difficult to seek and make changes, the rewards are enormous, especially to those who will follow us.

It takes will, discipline, to change a society’s way of life; it takes leadership.

Sadly, it’s obvious that this premier is not only not going to lead us into change, she will do everything she possibly can to retain the status quo and to make the rich richer at the expense of our beautiful environment.

I must admit that I shudder at the thought of the official opposition taking over but that’s not enough to permit me to support someone for whom there is no hope. John Horgan may not present a great deal of optimism in this area but at least there’s a chance he may be persuaded to let his decency take over and do something right. There is also a real hope that the Green Party might have greater influence.

When you consider the unsuitability of Christy Clark and that the second most powerful person in government is Rich Coleman, surely British Columbians must pull out all stops to show her the door a year this May – not to gain anything but to save something.


How the BC Liberals killed WAC Bennett’s dream of affordable public power, ferries, rail

Longtime Bc Premier WAC Bennett's dream is dead
Longtime BC Premier WAC Bennett’s dream is dead, says former Socred Minister Rafe Mair

Well, it’s all over but the shouting. WAC Bennett’s dream of cheap power, cheap rail, and cheap ferry sevice has been murdered. Yes it’s murder – pre-meditated murder – not manslaughter.

To compound this catastrophe, the mainstream print media, especially Postmedia (the Vancouver Sun, Province and National Post) acted throughout as if nothing was happening.

NDP opposition asleep at the wheel

It’s actually worse than that because the opposition has been asleep from the beginning and, even when it had its eyes barely open, was still in a semi-comatose condition. This started at the end of the 90s when the NDP folded its tent and became a mere shadow of its former self, leaving the field wide open for the right wing.

New breed of “right wing”

Now, I’m not talking about the right wing as we used to know it in the old days under the Bennetts, who mixed capitalism, socialism, and sprinkled them with doses of populism to keep things exciting.

The new guy, calling himself a Liberal, Gordon Campbell, was an entirely different breed of cat. He combined a hearty dislike for crown corporations with an utter lack of any sensitivity toward people and communities.

Bennett had dreams

WAC Bennett had three dreams: 

  1. British Columbians would be able to live on the coast and to move from place to place by sea at a reasonable cost, just as other British Columbians could by highway.
  2. He believed the same for rail and that the only way to open up this massive province was to provide cheap and reliable rail.
  3. He knew that affordable and available power was critical both to residents and to attract competitive industry.

He left us as his legacy: BC Ferries, BC Rail, and BC Hydro.

Under the Campbell/Clark government all of this has gone.

Ferries, Rail, Hydro gone or ruined

Much of the Peace Valley's best farmland is already under the Williston Reservoir, behind the WAC Bennett Dam (Damien Gillis)
WAC Bennett Dam (Damien Gillis)

The ferry system is now some hybrid, neither private not public, and down to the point of selling off its ferries to ex-employees for pennies.

BC Rail’s so called “sale” was a fraud, plain and simple, and British Columbians got taken to the cleaners.

Now we had BC Hydro, the jewel of our crown, and the Campbell/Clark government has dug its deadly talons into its back.

I am going to say it but once: “I told you so!” So did economist Erik Andersen in these pages. So did Damien Gillis. So did many others who wrote for us. The problem was that the theft and distraction was so obvious that nobody could believe that it was happening.

This is probably the best con game of all. The sucker can often work their way through a complicated scam, but give him a simple Ponzi scheme right before his very eyes and he is bowled over unto stupefaction.

The private power scam

It was scarcely a secret that Gordon Campbell hated crown corporations. Within two years of taking office he passed an energy policy which took away from BC Hydro its ability to create new power, except Site C, and forced it to buy all its new power from private companies who were given exclusive rights to make it. This required scores of our rivers to be decimated by what the private companies – euphemistically dubbed IPPs (“Independent” Power Producers”) – called “weirs” but were in fact small but destructive dams.

Construction of a private power project on the Ashlu River (Photo: Range Life)
Construction of a private power project on the Ashlu River (Photo: Range Life)

Hydro had to pay twice or more the market cost of this power and it was forced to take it when it was produced even though it didn’t need it at that time. The Finance Minister, Campbell crony Colin Hansen, said these IPPs would be little “mom and pop”, which was 100% bullshit – unless one considers General Electric to be a “mom and pop” operation. The owner of your corner grocery store can tell you what happens if you follow these sorts of business practices.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, we now have the admission from minister Bill Bennett (who at least ought to have the decency to change his name) that the Christy Clark government has been milking huge “dividends” out of money BC Hydro has borrowed. Not earned, for God’s sake, but borrowed! BC Hydro is now in a financial mess from which it can never recover, short of a massive injection of public cash out of the treasury or by inflated electricity bills or both.

Thus, under Gordo and Christy, the power company that provided reliable and cheap power to the public and to industry has gone poof! And it has gone by way deliberate misfeasance by a political party which next year will be asking us, with a straight face, to support them because they are “business oriented”.

Site C: the latest chapter in Hydro fraud

This story is, of course, compounded by Site C, which promises to deliver power we don’t need now or in the foreseeable future at a cost that will surely exceed $10 billion and will destroy thousands of acres of good agricultural land – to say nothing of the way of life of farmers and First Nations who have lived in the area since time immemorial.

During this time, the NDP have scarcely been helpful and, in fact, in their latter days in power, also helped themselves to BC Hydro-borrowed money.

I don’t suppose there’s any point in stating the obvious that the mainstream media have paid no attention whatsoever to this disgraceful destruction of our heritage. I invite you to search the Vancouver Sun and Province for critical articles, editorials, or columns about the Campbell/Clark energy wipeout that’s been the last nail in the BC Hydro coffin. You’ll come up pretty well empty.

After all, don’t forget that Postmedia are now formal partners with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and that big-time tax evader and jungle burner, Sukanto Tanoto and his Woodfibre LNG.

It’s hard unto impossible for a hardworking, honest, decent  citizen to find an ounce of honesty or decency amongst those, in the delicious words of the Anglican Book Of Prayer, “set in authority over us”.


The next Burnaby Mountain? Site C Dam opponents dig in their heels

Treaty 8 Steward of the Land Helen Knott at Rocky Mountain Fort camp (facebook)
A Treaty 8 Steward of the Land at Rocky Mountain Fort camp (facebook)

It may prove the missing ingredient in a long, intense battle over Site C Dam: Civil disobedience. After seven different lawsuits by landowners and First Nations, harsh criticism and tough, unanswered questions from the Joint Review Panel, the prospect of cancellation by the NDP opposition after the next election, and a very long list of high-profile opponents, it may be the occupation of an old fort site on the banks of the Peace that tips the scales.

It’s happened before – especially in BC. From the War in the Woods and the early days of Greenpeace to Fish Lake, the Sacred Headwaters and Burnaby Mountain, many “done deal” projects with billions riding on them and the full backing of government and powerful corporations have met their match in citizens and First Nations willing to go to jail for what they hold dearest.

The game is afoot

In recent weeks, this has begun happening in the Peace Valley, in the area surrounding early construction of the dam site for a likely $15 Billion project that is still in its very infancy, despite the signing of contracts and initial clearing work. It started in early December when longtime Peace Valley resident Mark Meiers was arrested during a peaceful rally at the gates of the work site.

Then, just after Christmas, a group of First Nations and their farmer supporters began occupying the former Rocky Mountain Fort site – a historical treasure once visited by Alexander Mackenzie in 1793 – on the West side of the Moberly-Peace River confluence, adjacent to the proposed dam. A release from the group today declares that First Nations are “prepared to face arrest to protect their traditional territory.” It continues:

“Joined by local landowners, Treaty 8 Stewards of the Land say they will not permit BC Hydro to proceed with plans to clear-cut forests around the Rocky Mountain Fort site on the west side of the Moberly River. The site, selected by explorer Alexander Mackenzie, was the first trading post in mainland B.C. and is situated in the traditional territory of Treaty 8 First Nations.”

First Nations have new hope in Trudeau

Prophet River First Nations member and fort occupier Helen Knott notes that Treaty 8 leaders recently raised their constitutional concerns about the project with the new Trudeau Government in Ottawa. “The Prime Minister says that Canada’s most important relationship is with its Indigenous Peoples and that he promises to uphold and respect Treaty Rights”, says Knott.

“This is what we are trying to do at a grassroots level. I speak as Great Great Granddaughter of Chief Bigfoot, the last to sign Treaty 8 in 1911, and I am trying to honour my Grandfather’s original intent and uphold those rights he meant to protect. I ask Prime Minister Trudeau to also honour that original intent.”

It ain’t over yet

It remains to be seen what effect the opposition has on construction but if it comes to arrests and the camp begins to attract more supporters, it could be just thing to halt the Clark Government and BC Hydro’s big push to get the project off the ground. And it has begun – just yesterday retired longtime Peace River Regional District area director Arthur Hadland was arrested. Hadland was hugely popular as an independent candidate for MLA, coming within 12 points of beating Liberal Patt Pimm for the riding in 2009.

Now, with another provincial election on the horizon and the NDP having drawn battle lines over Site C, it promises to become a hot-button campaign issue – especially with so many taxpayer dollars at stake and the lack of demonstrated need for the project.

One thing is for sure: these “cowboys and indians” as they have branded their alliance in the past, don’t seem ready to ride off into the Peace Valley sunset.

Large hydro dams aren't green - they actually drive climate change

Let’s quit pretending dams like Site C are good for the climate

Large hydro dams aren't green - they actually drive climate change
BC’s WAC Bennett Dam (Photo: Damien Gillis)

There are many good reasons not to build Site C Dam: destruction of farmland and wildlife habitat, the violation of First Nations’ rights, the likely $15 Billion tab for taxpayers, and the fact that we simply don’t need the power. But you can add one very important item to the list: CLIMATE.

Hydro full of hot air

I raise this now because we have climate on the brain with the Paris talks and because it’s the final fig leaf clung to by defenders of this bogus project. People like BC Hydro’s Siobhan Jackson – Environmental and Community Mitigation Manager for Site C – perpetuate the myth that hydro dams, while ecologically devastating, are somehow “clean”. In a recent op-ed in the Vancouver Sun, Jackson acknowledged, then quickly downplayed the GHGs that would be produced by the project.

“Site C, after an initial burst of expenditure, would lock in low rates for many decades, and would produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions per unit of energy than any source save nuclear,” she says. From a strictly GHG perspective dams may be better than coal. But there are two big problems with this argument.

Inflating demand to justify Site C

First, it’s a false dichotomy. Hydro’s own numbers, recently submitted to the BC Utilities Commission, show we won’t need the electricity from Site C until at least 2029 – unless we use it to power the cooling of gas into LNG, in which case the climate rationale just went right out the window, since even a few LNG plants would require a massive ramping up of fracked natural gas in northeast BC, which is a huge climate problem. Jackson contradicts her own people, repeating the old saw that we will simply need more power – 40% in 20 years – a figure pulled straight from between her butt cheeks.

The truth is Hydro has always and severely overestimated future power demands, as we have repeatedly demonstrated in these pages. The fact is we’re using essentially the same amount of electricity today in BC as we did at the turn of the millennium, despite population increases and new gadgetry (which is increasingly efficient).

So the choice between flooding another 80 km of the Peace Valley for a third hydro dam and relying on coal-fired energy is an absolutely false one. Here’s what is true: Site C is a lot worse for the environment than the very real alternative of continued conservation.

Ignoring the latest science

The other big problem with Jackson’s argument is it soft-pedals the serious climate impacts of Hydro dams. She claims the research and methodology relied on by Hydro to measure Site C’s GHG footprint is top-notch. I beg to differ. New research is showing that dams produce far more greenhouse gases than previously thought.

For instance, this peer-reviewed study in Science Daily notes:

[quote]Researchers have documented an underappreciated suite of players in global warming: dams, the water reservoirs behind them, and surges of greenhouse gases as water levels go up and down. In separate studies, researchers saw methane levels jump 20- and 36-fold during drawdowns.[/quote]

Methane is a far worse greenhouse gas than CO2 – 86 times worse, in fact, over a 20-year period, according to Dr. Robert Howarth from Cornell University, a globally acknowledged expert on the subject. This is the same reason fracking is so bad for the climate – pure “natural gas” is methane and far more of it leaks into the atmosphere during the extraction, treatment and piping processes than we once thought. We call these “fugitive methane emissions”. The unnatural water bodies we call dam reservoirs accumulate dead biomass from all those trees cut down and hillsides unearthed, which in turn rots and emits the same methane into the atmosphere, producing serious GHGs over the entire life of a project.

This explains why a study in the journal Water, Air and Soil Pollution determined that “one Amazonian dam, Tucurui, was once calculated to have greater emissions than Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest city and among the 10 most populous in the world,” as this 2013 story on Brazil’s exploding carbon footprint explains.

A whole lot of concrete

This is, of course, on top of the enormous emissions associated with construction, from all that concrete poured and heavy machinery operating for a decade. Ms. Jackson acknowledges this as an “initial burst of expenditure” (if you can call ten years of construction “initial”, that is). In a particularly insightful article on the subject in EcoWatch, author Gary Wocker notes:

[quote]For one medium-sized dam project proposed for the Cache la Poudre River in Colorado, it is estimated that the construction would emit 218,000 metric tons CO2-equivalents which equals the emissions from almost 46,000 automobiles on the road for one year. Larger dams, such as Hoover Dam which contains 4.36 million cubic yards of concrete, would have exponentially higher climate change impacts from construction. The largest hydro-electric dam on the planet—the Three Gorges Dam in China—contains 27.15 million cubic meters of cement.[/quote]

Lesser of two evils

So Jackson and co. breeze by the ten-year construction phase, instead landing on the argument that Site C will have a smaller reservoir than the existing Williston, therefore fewer GHGs from dead biomass by comparison. Okay – but that’s a lesser of two evils argument. The important question is not how many GHGs Site C will produce compared to larger reservoirs, but rather how it would fare compared with other renewable technologies; and, even more importantly, do we even need it at all? Since the answer to that is “no”, the whole conversation is moot.

Even if we did need more power in 30 years, the technologies available will be exponentially better and cheaper, so what’s the rush to plunk down $15 billion of your scarce tax dollars now and destroy a whole valley in the process? Moreover, the climate crisis is such that adding a comparatively small degree of new emissions to existing ones is no longer an acceptable argument. We need to be going in the opposite direction – i.e. cutting emissions and total energy consumption. These are things that our new Prime Minister – as he jostles with provinces like ours over their climate plans and the loopholes they build into them – would do well to bear in mind as he’s petitioned to reconsider federal permits for the project issued by his predecessor. Site C has no place in Mr. Trudeau’s federal energy strategy.

Nothing “Clean” about Site C

Calling an 80 km-long dam that will flood or disturb 30,000 acres of some of the best farmland we have left in Canada, contaminate fish with absolutely toxic levels of mercury for decades to come, destroy some of the best remaining wildlife habitat in an already industrially-devastated region and produce massive greenhouse gas emissions hardly qualifies this as a “clean energy project.”

Make what arguments you will for Site C, Ms. Jackson, Premier Clark. Tell us it will produce construction jobs (many of which are already going to Albertans). Try to convince us that awarding mega-contracts to your construction pals and political backers will be good for the whole BC economy. But don’t try to dupe British Columbians into believing that Site C Dam is somehow a “climate solution”.

That’s just a whole lot of hot air.

Rafe- NDP Opposition should try some actual opposing

Rafe: NDP Leader Horgan’s Site C Dam opposition is a game-changer

Rafe- NDP Opposition should try some actual opposing
BC NDP and Official Opposition Leader John Horgan (
I suggest that everyone listen to this immediately – it is John Horgan, leader of the BC NDP, promising to shut down Site C and make up the energy difference through conservation, wind and solar power (listen here yourself to his CBC Daybreak North interview from Monday morning).

Site C is something that never should have happened, certainly not for decades to come. It has always been a bad idea and totally unwarranted based on the lack of power needs of BC Hydro and our province. There have been predictions by BC Hydro to justify this project but they neither justify it nor dispel the reality that BC Hydro always overestimates its power needs by a considerable amount.

The challenge for Mr. Horgan, in my view, is to stop Site C and at the same time decrease, not increase, Independent Power Projects (IPPs) which are ruining our rivers and bankrupting BC Hydro while making foreign investors unjustly rich. I’ve no doubt that Mr. Horgan has addressed this issue – if he hasn’t, there’ll be no shortage of experts addressing it for him.

Changing the game

This announcement, at least at first blush, is a game changer. Mr. Horgan is no longer tied to the apron strings of Christy and her LNG fantasies. This is extremely timely given the news over the last 30 days or so which all but set the funeral date for LNG and gazillion-dollar Prosperity Funds and debt elimination in this province. Christy can hardly, at this point, announce that she will cancel Site C too, and since that decision will be hugely popular as the facts come out, she is stuck flogging a dying horse, if not one that’s already been put down.

This decision will also give Horgan an issue where he is once again the Leader of the Opposition, not simply saying “me too” to LNG propositions put forward by Christy and her poodle, Rich Coleman – the beat cop who, like Walter Mitty, fantasizes that he’s become a world expert on energy.

The election campaign is underway and at this point, admittedly early in the game, I would say it’s suddenly advantage Horgan.
Fracking, Site C and the mystery of Hudson's Hope water contamination

Fracking, Site C and the mystery of Hudson’s Hope water contamination

Fracking, Site C and the mystery of Hudson's Hope water contamination
Five year-old River Summer looks on at Brenot Creek landslide (Photo: Leigh Summer)

A series of landslides above the northeast BC community of Hudson’s Hope has been dumping contaminated soils into several local creeks, extending now to the Peace River. Local landowners whose water supply has been affected are demanding answers.

But Mayor Gwen Johansson, who has been monitoring the situation since trouble first appeared last summer, says all she really has is a lot of questions.

The three biggest ones are:

1. Did nearby fracking operations – or related wastewater disposal – cause the landslides?

2. Is fracking wastewater the source of the contamination unleashed into a series of interconnected creeks?

3. If not, and the the contamination is naturally-occurring in local soils, as the Oil and Gas Commission contends, then what are the implications for the proposed Site C Dam, which could further erode and carry contaminated soils downstream for decades to come?

What we do know

Slide at Brenot Creek (submitted)
Slide at Brenot Creek (submitted)

Since the summer of 2014, the ongoing slides have spewed sediment laced with toxic heavy metals – including lead, arsenic, barium, cadmium and lithium – into Brenot Creek, which flows into Lynx Creek, which in turn feeds into the Peace River. Large bars of sediment have formed in Brenot and Lynx Creeks and contaminated water has now nearly reached another major river in the area, the Halfway – according to local landowner, Ross Peck. 

Farmer Leigh Summer, whose property lies below the slide area, has watched with horror as Brenot Creek has become packed with toxic silt. “Now it’s so muddy that when you put your hand in it, if you have an inch of water over top of your hand, you can’t see your hand,” Summer told the Alaska Highway News. “There used to be fish in the creek, but it’s basically dead today.” 

His neighbour, Rhee Simpson, has seen the well she depends on run dry, likely filled in with sediment. “I have no water,” Simpson, a resident and farmer near the creek for 62 years, told the CBC earlier this week. “You can’t play in it. You can’t fish in it. You can’t drink it. Your stock can’t drink it. Someone has to do something to get our water back.”

We also know that there were fracking operations in close proximity to the slide approximately 3 years ago, with more in the surrounding areas of Talisman (now Progress Energy/Petronas’) Farrell Creek play – but likely not close enough to be related. See the map below – provided by the District of Hudson’s Hope (click to expand).

Fracking Map_Lynx, Brenot Creeks

We know that the shale gas extraction process is associated with increased seismic activity – as we were reminded by the recent 4.6 magnitude quake in Wonowon, some 70 km away, as the crow flies. This is most frequently associated with the injection of “produced water” (used fracking fluids) into waste wells to dispose of it underground after a well has been fracked – though in some cases the fracking process itself can trigger seismic activity. 

We also know that the terrain in this region is no stranger to landslides, as it’s composed of loose materials like shale, sand and clay. That’s always been a strong argument against Site C Dam by local landowners who know this. The Williston Reservoir, West of the planned Site C reservoir has seen massive expansion since its flooding in 1968, gobbling up the banks of the water body far beyond original predictions, due to the instability of the soils. The terrain East of there, where Site C is proposed, is even less stable. More on that in a moment.

See no evil

Fracking operations near Hudson's Hope in 2012 (Damien Gillis)
Fracking near Hudson’s Hope in 2012 (Damien Gillis)

The testing of the Brenot creek slide and contamination been pretty pitiful thus far, given what’s at stake. The OGC has declared the toxins “naturally occurring”, maintaining, “there’s no evidence that fracking operations are the source of the contamination – which has the ring of the sort of technicality-based, legalistic denials we heard for years from the tobacco industry. As Carl Sagan said, “The absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence.” Bear in mind, too, that the OGC is hardly known for its tough, independent monitoring and regulation of the oil and gas industry.

The municipality spent its own money to hire independent hydrologist and shale gas expert Dr. Gilles Wendling to conduct some preliminary tests beginning last summer, but it lacks the resources to carry the load with the kind of in-depth, ongoing testing required here. According to the mayor in a letter to the community published in January, 2015 (see page 22), “Dr. Wendling’s readings were consistently above guidelines for the heavy metals, and the origin was sand in the water coming out of the bank at a slide on Brenot Creek.”

Those findings prompted the District to install a water advisory in September, 2014, which the Ministry of Environment supported, formally warning people to avoid the water for personal use, animals and irrigation.

In January, Johansson wrote, “The MoE representative said they have no plans to do anything further, other than file a report. He said he expected that eventually the creek would cleanse itself.”

Well, a year later, the creek has not cleansed itself. According to Johansson, The Ministry Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO) has a landslide specialist who has been monitoring expansion of slide. He has explained that because the slide is so vertical, we can expect that it will continue moving for some time to come.

Mayor Johansson notes that in the old days, this is the kind of work MoE could have been counted on to carry out in a thorough manner but they haven’t been back to investigate further to date. In the wake of recent media attention on the issue, though, officials have indicated they are coming up for a site visit by helicopter next week. If what they see from the air is enough cause for concern – as it well should be – then Johansson hopes they will return to take soil samples and conduct thorough testing.

Another possible culprit

bennett dam-2
The Williston Reservoir and Bennett Dam

Landowner Leigh Summer isn’t convinced that shale gas activity is responsible – or at least the sole culprit – for the slides. “I was pretty convinced initially, but the flow seems to increase with the level of Williston (Reservoir) increasing, so I have a feeling it’s a conjunction of the two,” he told the Alaska Highway News.

“There’s something going on with the aquifers underneath…I suspect, in my mind, that there’s some connection between one or the other, or both.”

Pandora’s box

Regardless of the cause of the slides, if the OGC is correct and this erosion has simply unleashed naturally-occurring contaminants in the soil – a sort of opening up of Pandora’s Box – that’s a frightening prospect indeed.

Plainly put, if fracking operations are the source of the contamination, that’s bad news. But if they aren’t, that’s perhaps even worse news when you consider that the proposed Site C Dam would engulf much of the area below the slide, closer to the river, and potentially continue carrying contamination far downstream well into the distant future.

“If these contaminants are in the soil, how far along the Peace Valley do they extend?” asks Mayor Johansson. The fact is, given the dearth of studies, we don’t yet have a clue. And the implications could be massive for the region – and well beyond – as Summer notes:

“We are really subjecting ourselves to the risk of having a contaminated reservoir which, obviously, contaminates the river all the way to the Slave (River) and to the Mackenzie (River) and the Arctic Ocean, so it’s pretty significant.”

Either way, we need serious, credible testing now. The Clark government is already spending hundreds of millions of tax dollars, rushing ahead with early Site C construction 70 KM downstream, at the proposed dam site. This despite BC Hydro’s own acknowledgement that the power from the dam won’t be required until at least 2029! If this naturally-occurring contamination extends for a great distance along the banks of the Peace River, then building Site C and flooding this area is a nightmare scenario we would do well to avoid.

Site C not necessary until at least 2029, BC Hydro's own numbers show

Site C not needed until at least 2029, BC Hydro’s own numbers show

Site C not necessary until at least 2029, BC Hydro's own numbers show
Early Site C construction in the Peace River, despite Hydro’s own numbers showing the project is unnecessary (Donald Hoffmann)

BC likely won’t need the power generated by Site C Dam until at least 2029, according to recent projections from BC Hydro’s Rate Design proposal, submitted to the BC Utilities Commission.

Graph from BC Hydro's Rate Design proposal to the BC Utilities Commission
Graph from BC Hydro’s Rate Design proposal to the BC Utilities Commission

The figures underscore the finding by the Joint Review Panel into the project that the need for the power has not been demonstrated. Ironically, the BCUC, which is reviewing Hydro’s latest Rate Design proposal and is responsible for evaluating projects based on need and business case, was barred by the Liberal government from examining Site C.

Dam will leak dollars

To make matters worse, the power generated by the $9 Billion-plus project would have to be sold to neighbouring markets at a steep discount (something like ($35/Megawatt Hour vs. $100-plus to produce it), which will mean billions in losses to ratepayers and taxpayers. One leading energy expert – Dan Potts, retired head of the Association of Major Power Users’ of BC – predicts a $350 million annual loss to ratepayers from the unnecessary Site C.

Industrial demand down into foreseeable future

Hydro has a history of inflating demand with its forecasts – something we have well documented in these pages – but even it can’t see a need for Site C until more than a decade from now. The crown corporation attributes part of the decrease in future power demand to a decline energy used by big industry. “Forecast sales in the large industrial and commercial categories have decreased largely as a result of lower forecast customer load in the mining and pulp and paper sectors due to a delay in start-up and lower commodity market outlook,” Hydro acknowledges.

Recent construction on north bank of Peace River (Don Hoffmann)
Recent construction on north bank of Peace River (Don Hoffmann)

None of these trends – from the shuttering of pulp mills and saw mills, to a decline in mining activity – show any near or even medium-term sign of turning around. The only scenario under which Site C power is needed sooner than 2029 is if it were required to power LNG plants – which is highly unlikely given the sharp global downturn in the LNG market and the fact that most, if not all, LNG plants would choose to power the cooling process with gas-fired electricity as opposed to more expensive power from BC Hydro.

Should the demand scenario change in the coming decades, recent studies have shown that alternative renewable energy options would be cheaper and more environmentally sustainable – not to mention more scalable and quicker to bring online if and when need be.

Hasty work may lack permits

This all, once again, begs the question: why is the Liberal government so intent on bulldozing ahead with Site C construction – especially with a haste that may be violating a number of fish habitat protections?

Questions raised by local groups like the Peace Valley Landowners’ Association and Treaty 8 Tribal Association about federal permits for working in a fish-bearing river have yet to be answered by BC Hydro. Referring to the image at the top of this story, taken yesterday, showing two backhoes working directly in the river, the PVLA’s Ken Boon asks again, “Do they have the required federal permits to do this in the river?  One would expect they do, but I and others having been pushing for an answer to this simple question, with no firm answers. We have been told they do not.”


BC Hydro breaks promises in logging eagle’s nest for Site C Dam; May have lacked permits

As the fog lifted on the Peace River Monday morning, it revealed this clearcut island (Donald Hoffmann)
As the fog lifted on the Peace River Monday morning, it revealed this clearcut island (Donald Hoffmann)

BC Hydro’s clearcut logging this past weekend at the location of the proposed Site C Dam appears to have broken a promise about care for active eagles’ nests and may have lacked federal permits, critics charge.

See no eagle, hear no eagle

The work came within days of the Union of BC Municipalities’ (UBCM) call for a halt to Site C Dam construction until proper independent reviews have been conducted. While Hydro has provincial permits to cut down eagles’ nests on islands in the Peace River, spokesperson Dave Conway has stated it would “take great care to avoid or mitigate effects on active bald eagle nests during Site C construction.”

Yet, based on evidence captured and provided by local photographer Donald Hoffmann, an apparently active eagle’s nest was cut down over the weekend.

A statement issued by Hydro on “protecting” eagles said the following:

[quote]What does inactive mean? Inactive means the nest is no longer being occupied by a bird or an egg.[/quote]

Yet an eagle was still clearly seen occupying the nest as of Friday, September 25 (pictured below with machinery operating behind the nest). By Monday, the nest, along with every tree on the island, was gone.

A bald eagle sits in its nest on a Peace River island on Sept. 25 (left); Logging occurring near the same eagle's nest on Sept. 26 (Donald Hoffmann)
A bald eagle sits in its nest on a Peace River island on Sept. 25 (left); Logging occurring near the same eagle’s nest on Sept. 26 (Donald Hoffmann)
The same island - site of the proposed Site C Dam - on Sept. 28 (top arrow shows location of former eagle's nest; bottom arrow shows where logging equipment crossed river channel) - Donald Hoffmann
The same island – location of the proposed Site C Dam – on Sept. 28 (top arrow shows location of former eagle’s nest; bottom arrow shows where logging equipment crossed river channel) – Donald Hoffmann

Not only was Hydro to leave active nests in place, but it promised “300-metre no activity buffers will be implemented around active bald eagle nests”. The above photo clearly shows a feller buncher machine working in far closer proximity to a nest with an eagle sitting in it.

Conway confirmed in comments emailed to the Alaska Highway News that the nest was removed, but maintained that “a qualified environmental professional was on-site to determine the nest was inactive, and no eagles were present or harmed in the process.” How the “qualified environmental professional” missed the eagle captured in photographs by Hoffmann is a unclear.

Hydro may have lacked permits

The path built on the north side of the Peace River to move equipment across a channel, onto an adjacent island - work that may have lacked federal permits (Ken Boon)
The path built on the north side of the Peace River to move equipment across a channel, onto an adjacent island – work that may have lacked federal permits (Ken Boon)

Ken Boon of the Peace Valley Landowners’ Association was partaking in a wooden boat race on the river this past Saturday when he learned of Hydro’s construction work on the island – where he ventured to see it for himself. He is concerned that BC Hydro moved equipment across a side channel in the river without proper permits.

“Two pieces of logging equipment were moved to the island by crossing the river during the best low water conditions possible, in co-ordination with the Peace Canyon Generating Station,” Conway told the Alaska Highway News. “This was done in accordance with our provincial permits, and an environmental monitor was on site.” Boon counters, “That may be so, but to our knowledge, there are no federal permits issued that would allow for the crossing of a main river channel with that equipment.”

This notion is backed up by lands staff for the Treaty 8 Tribal Association, who told me yesterday that Hydro acknowledged during recent injunction proceedings Hydro that it did not have the necessary federal permits to impact a fish-bearing river. 

Hydro’s poor track record

“This incident highlights again the fact that BC Hydro, as a public crown corporation, cannot be trusted to be doing self-monitoring and self-reporting,” adds Verena Hofmann, a Peace Valley resident working with Treaty 8 on Site C-related issues.

She points to Hydro’s poor track record with environmental studies. The crown corporation committed a series of missteps throughout its filed studies and investigative work leading up to the Join Review Panel hearings – including “archeology infractions that resulted in an RCMP investigation, improper sampling methods, test holes that were too shallow and had to be redone, and improper baiting for wildlife studies.”

In each of these instances, Treaty 8 members had to intervene and insist of problems being addressed, maintains Hofmann. “We’ve seen that it’s BC’s practice to allow industry to police itself, but Hydro does not have the same deal with the federal government. Where are the federal agencies whose responsibility it is to monitor fish habitat and fish-bearing watercourses?”

Early signs of Site C’s disruption

From further west on the Peace River comes this account from homeowner Caroline Beam:

[quote]A bald eagle was hit on the highway near our riverside home outside Hudson’s Hope a few days ago. My husband came upon the scene as the driver was trying to figure out how to capture and contain the obviously injured bird. He was attempting to use a coat, which my husband explained to him would not be adequate for safely containing such a large, strong and well-armed bird. My husband then called the local RCMP, who asked him to retrieve a large animal crate from our home and meet him at the scene to try to capture the bird properly, after which it would be transported to a facility in the lower mainland. If it survived its wounds and the journey, trained professionals would try to heal it and hopefully release the bird back into the wild. Chances of success: unknown.

It turns out that, upon returning to the scene, my husband discovered that the eagle was nowhere to be found. Hopefully, the bird was not as injured as it initially appeared and simply flew off once it regained its bearings. I’d rather not dwell on darker possibilities.

The whole incident got me thinking about the raptors in this valley, and the effect we humans have on them. Every day, we encroach on their habitat, endanger them with our contraptions, disrupt their food sources, and threaten their futures. And all the while, we celebrate them for their beauty, grace, and fierce spirits. Our southern neighbors have even adopted the bald eagle as their national bird! It all seems so incongruous.[/quote]

Clark’s hurry-up offence

This early work on Site C Dam comes as the project faces increasing scrutiny from a litany of reputable individuals and groups, as summarized recently at The Common Sense Canadian. The list includes a former head of BC Hydro, the retired chair of the official Joint Review Panel into Site C, and now BC’s mayors and councils with the recent UBCM resolutions.

Given the anticipated decade-long construction process for the project and the legal opposition it still faces, critics are questioning the hurry-up approach to controversial logging of sensitive areas, eagles’ nest, etc.

Referring to the mounting calls for an independent review of the project by the BC Utilities Commission and Agricultural Land Commission (both deliberately excluded from Site C’s review), Boon notes, “The BC government’s response has been to ramp up the destructive clearing of old growth forest, road building and other costly work associated with the project.”

[quote]Premier Clark should instead show real leadership and halt all work right now.  Until that happens, we will continue with our legal challenge, and pressure will continue to mount on the premier to stop construction as more ‘scorched earth’ images emerge.[/quote]

With news that Site C will be debated int he BC Legislature today, Treaty 8 First Nations and their supporters are staging a rally today at the Legislature.