Ken Boon calls the view from the tip of the Peace River’s north bank, where he hosted a tour for media and interested organizations, one that many people don’t see of Site-C.
“After seeing reports of the BC Hydro tour, it was pretty obvious that they weren’t showing the whole picture,” Boon, the president of the Peace Valley Landowner’s Association, said.
According to him, the whole picture includes sights such as a whole flat of land where he alleges trees were mulched rather cut into timber — and the island in the middle of the river, that used to be freckled with trees, completely bare.
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“There’s 100 kilometres of river valley that’s going to get destroyed before this is going to be done, and we’re only looking at a couple of kilometres — so it’s only gotten worse.”
People coming from across the province and even across the country were there to observe — from Treaty 8 Tribal Association, and other organizations, respectively.
Craig Benjamin with Amnesty International said he was ‘taken aback’ by the scale of what has happened in the valley during his first glimpse of the construction in process.
“Considering there are active issues before the courts — and they’re not casual issues, they’re fundamental issues of whether or not the provincial and federal governments have upheld treaty and constitutional obligations — it’s astonishing to me that, in this context, any government in this day and age would plunge ahead and allow such irreversible harm to already be caused to the region,” he said.
One argument on the opposition side of Site-C is the loss of farmland in the Peace River Valley that completion of construction would see.
The Wilderness Committee’s Joe Foy said the valley hosts unique plant life, such as cactus, and there is a variety of produce that can grown here that can’t in many other regions of the province.
Despite the construction start, Boon has hope the project can be halted. He called the recent debate of Site-C in BC legislature ‘farcical,’ but applauded the NDP for unanimously voicing out against Site-C, and cultivating their own energy policy.
“There’s a lot of better ways to put that equipment to work down there,” he continued. “We’re not opposed to jobs, and the NDP’s not opposed to jobs. But there’s a lot smarter ways to put that equipment to work, and create energy that Site-C would create in a lot smarter, greener, cleaner ways.”
He believes the way to smarter energy projects is creating smaller projects at a slower pace — rather than taking on what he calls a ‘white elephant’ project.
West Moberly First Nation’s Forest Technician George Desjarlais said their biggest concern is with regard to the environment: not just how the dam will impact forests, but the wildlife the First Nation has depended on for generations.
He recalled the effect the W.A.C. Bennett Dam near Hudson’s Hope had on mountain ungulates — including sheep, goats, and caribou — back when construction was finished in the 70’s.
“The same thing is going to happen here once this dam is constructed, and the valley is flooded,” he said.