SOURCE: Vancouver Sun

DATE: May 14, 2019

SNIP: Journalist Sarah Cox takes on the dirty business of clean power in Breaching the Peace: The Site C Dam and a Valley’s Stand against Big Hydro.

NP: Clean energy = Bad? Please explain.

SC: Large hydro dams are a hugely expensive and destructive way to generate renewable energy. They are neither “green” nor environmentally friendly.

Some of Canada’s leading scholars studied the Site C dam project and found that it will have more significant adverse environmental effects than any project ever examined in the history of the federal Environmental Assessment Act. Among other impacts, the Site C dam will destroy habitat for more than 100 species already vulnerable to extinction, including bird, plant, butterfly, bee and mammal species.

The Site C dam and its reservoir will also eliminate some of Canada’s richest farmland, ancient wetlands called tufa seeps, old-growth boreal forests and a living laboratory for scientists to study how species adapt to climate change. The Peace River Valley, which would be inundated by the dam, is a flyway for migratory birds and is part of the boreal bird nursery. It hosts three-quarters of all B.C.’s bird species. As many as 30,000 songbirds and woodpeckers nest in the dam’s future flood zone, which stretches the equivalent distance of driving from Toronto to Niagara Falls when you include Peace River tributaries that would also be flooded.

Just how “clean” big hydro dams really are is called into question by many scientists. One study by U.S. scientists shows that reservoirs produce considerably more carbon emissions than anticipated. About 80 per cent of these emissions are in the form of methane, a greenhouse gas 34 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

The claim by the B.C. and federal governments that the Site C dam’s ecological impacts are justified on the grounds that the project will deliver electricity with lower carbon emissions than other sources has also been debunked by University of B.C. scientists and other scholars.

NP: What would you say are the chances of an 11th-hour cancellation of the project based on violation of treaty rights?

SC: It’s difficult to judge. Two Treaty 8 First Nations have filed civil claims alleging the Site C dam and two previous dams on the Peace River unjustifiably infringe on their treaty rights. They lost an application for an injunction to stop work on Site C but the judge ruled that their case must be heard by 2023, prior to reservoir filling slated for 2024 — a timeline that may not be met given a patterns of schedule delays on other projects.

An 11th-hour ruling would no doubt be very bittersweet for the two nations — West Moberly First Nations and Prophet River First Nation — because by that time their traditional territory would be hardly recognizable. Already, BC Hydro contractors are clearcutting 13 areas in the Site C project zone that the nations have identified as critical to maintaining cultural practices guaranteed to them in the treaty signed in 1899. Three of those areas fall within a corridor for a transmission line that cuts through a rare old-growth white spruce and trembling aspen forest. The corridor slices through two wetlands — Sucker Lake and Trappers Lake — where First Nations have hunted moose and trapped for millennia. The stretch of the Peace River Valley that would be flooded by Site C is one of the last remaining places available in the area for First Nations to engage in traditional practices, such as teaching children their languages on the land that helped shape them.

[Read the whole interview. It’s all good except for the very last bit about other renewables and shale gas.]