B.C. Hydro’s agricultural land classification called into question

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Erica Fisher

Erica is a reporter for Moose FM and energeticcity.ca in Fort St. John, B.C. She grew up in Victoria, B.C. and received her Bachelor's Degree in Journalism from Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec.

Siobhan Jackson, Socio-Economic Heritage Manager for Site C, told the panel today that 0.6 per cent of Class 1 to 3 agricultural land capable of vegetable production in the Peace Region would be lost. She adds that outside of the area of the project, 8,000 hectares of Class 1 and 2 land would remain in the Peace River Valley.

“This remaining land would be more than enough to produce all of the climatically-suited vegetables for the entire Peace Region, considering population growth scenarios for 100 years or more,” Jackson argues.

Based on the utility class system Hydro is using, it says there is no Class 1 agricultural land in the Peace Region, but argues much of the Class 2 land would be upgraded with proposed irrigation. However, experts for the PVEA have taken issue with that system, arguing that the system isn’t widely used, and that nearly 6,500 hectares of Class 1 to 7 agricultural land would actually be lost. 

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“This is the first time I, as an agricultural professional for the last 40 years, have seen something called utility ratings,” says soil scientist Eveline Wolterson. “It’s not used by the ALC when they’re looking at opportunities for agricultural use and whether land should be excluded from the land reserve.” 

She argues that the system “discounts” 12,750 hectares of land impacted down to the 2,137 included in the Environmental Impact Statement. Wolterson also explains that there is a higher crop yield in the north than the south due to higher precipitation, more sunlight, and lower wind speeds. 

Agrologist Wendy Holm has concluded that B.C. Hydro has undervalued the impact of the dam on private home owners and the public and hasn’t properly shown the cumulative impacts of the project on them. 

“What they needed to look at was the benefits to farmers, to the community, to the general public that this land could have generated… over the next hundred years,” she says. “Agricultural land in proper stewardship becomes more valued over time, not less.” 

Hydro confirmed this morning that its agricultural compensation fund would be around $20 million, although the specifics of the program haven’t been given.

The Site C public hearings concluded Tuesday with discussions on vegetation, and will continue with wildlife presentations over the next two days.


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