“The decision to advance this project to this stage has not been made lightly. It has resulted from the careful consideration of the future electricity needs of our customers following many years of review and analysis,” she states. “Since B.C. Hydro’s last major facility was built, the province’s population has grown by more than 1.5 million people. Along with that population, B.C.’s economy has continued to expand, bringing more residences, businesses and industrial activity.”
However, Yurkovich also acknowledged the areas where the project is expected to have “significant residual adverse effects”: fish and fish habitat, wildlife resources, vegetation and ecological communities, and current use of land and resources for traditional purposes. She admits that for some, the proposed mitigation measures will not satisfy their concerns.
“We believe that the substantial work undertaken as part of this assessment demonstrates that the potential adverse effects of the project can largely be mitigated through careful planning, comprehensive mitigation programs, and ongoing monitoring during construction and operations,” she says. “If the Site C project proceeds, it is our intention to work hard to mitigate the effects of the project, and to deliver on our commitments to both First Nations and communities.”
At the same time, she argues there will be many benefits to rate payers, tax payers, local and Aboriginal communities.
In the general presentation, Yurkovich made reference to comments made by former B.C. Lieutenant Governor George Pearkes when the W.A.C. Bennett Dam was first opened, noting that they could have easily have been made about this project. In the 1967 opening address, he argued that while everyone may have seen the benefit to the dam at that point, there were many who had concerns about the cost, and whether there would be enough market. Tim Howard, lawyer for the Peace Valley Environmental Association, questioned the relevance of the quote, arguing that Hydro has a far broader range of energy choices than it did forty years ago.
“Is it reasonable to say… that the era that that quote arose from, there are a broader array of choices available to B.C. Hydro today, in terms of evaluating flux load to meet future demand?” he asked. “The implication of the presentation was that what was good in 1967 would be good today.”
Yurkovich responded that she’d only brought it up as a point of interest, but responded that Hydro does has a number of choices, and 20 per cent of its energy comes from Independent Power Producers, primarily wind and run-of-the-river hydroelectricity. In a response to a later question by PVEA’s Tony Atkins, she added that those sources can be intermittent and that Hydro must have the necessary capacity.
Yurkovich also mentioned in her opening statement the recent poll that B.C. Hydro argued showed more than 80 per cent of residents would be comfortable with the project provided their views are taken into account, the project is approved by the independent review, and conservation efforts are made. Resident Marina Hoffman questioned the validity and credibility of the poll, asking whether the respondents were fully informed of the project and its potential impacts.
“How many consultation meetings have you had in the south of British Columbia to make sure that people are well informed before you poll them?” she asked.
Yurkovich noted that the knowledge of the project was much higher in the Peace Region, but added that meetings were held in Vancouver in the early stages of consultation.
The rest of the public hearing this afternoon at the Pomeroy Hotel is dedicated to looking at the need, purpose and alternatives, continuing through Tuesday.