REPORTING · 19th April 2010
Site ‘C’ on the Peace River has been given the go ahead by BC Premier Gordon Campbell. This proposal has been a controversial topic for many decades. Buildings along the Peace River valley have lines painted along the sides of their walls to show how high the valley will be flooded and these red and orange lines have been there since the 1970’s.
An announcement conference began at 11:30 am this morning at the WAC Bennett Dam on the Peace River near Hudsons Hope B.C. Many ‘Energy Pioneers’ were present for the announcement as was the Grandson of WAC Bennett who was the Premier of BC when the original Peace and Columbia River projects were conceived and constructed. According to Premier Campbell, this was the first time Brad Bennett had come to see his grandfathers dream.
Dan Doyle, the Chair of BC Hydro began the conference and spoke about how hydro electric power was synonymous with success in BC. He introduced Don Sihota the area operations Manager in September of 1968 during the start up of the new turbines.
“I don’t know about you but I certainly know I look and feel 42 years older,” Don joked adding later, “I remember opening day like it was yesterday because I had the honour of being asked to announce the start up of the first of three turbines.” He recalled how he felt when standing next to the Premier and Dr. Gordon Shrum, the Chair of the BC Hydro as Bennett was asked to start things up. “I remember thinking to myself, ‘I sure hope this works’ because if it didn’t I figured I’d have the shortest career in the history of the company.”
BC Premier Campbell spoke about “Little Gordie and Little Brad” when the Williston Lake reservoir and dams were being constructed and used this as a reference to his children and family who will benefit from the construction of this project in the future. Campbell called the need “urgent”, that it is “critically important that we start now.” He spoke about the desire to be energy self sufficient by 2016. “I am pleased to announce that the Site C clean energy project will be moving to the third stage so we can build a future 50 years that reflects the last 50 years in British Columbia.”
He claimed the impact of the region will only be on 5% of that which was impacted in the original reservoir project of the 1950’s and 60’s when the original Peace Project began. The project will be constructed 7 kilometers Southwest of Fort St John near the community of Taylor and it is estimated will provide 35,000 direct and indirect jobs.
“Moving to the third stage means we have to now undertake the detailed environmental assessments and reviews that are essential to protect the quality of our environment here.” stated Campbell, “Moving to the third stage means we will carry out our constitutional responsibilities to first nations in accommodation and consultation to be sure that all British Columbians can benefit from this decision as we move ahead. Moving to the third stage means the detailed design work, we will look at what the optimal construction pattern should be in view of the 21st century building codes that we now face. In the forth stage will include further design and refinements and the fifth stage will be construction. Make no mistake. The third stage is the stage that counts. It says we are ready to go, were ready to start, it’s important to do, it’s important to keep our rates down, it’s important to keep our green house gas down, it’s important to free up our energy as we move to the future. Site C is an important part of British Columbia’s energy, economic and social future and we’re ready to take it on in all of its many details and all of its complications to build a future that our young people deserve in the Province of British Columbia.”
Energy Mines and Resources Minister Blair Lekstrom followed after a short video presentation and spoke about his father Bill who worked on the WAC Bennett Dam project. He acknowledged the controversy surrounding the project and how it has been discussed for decades. Lekstrom referred to our brave men and women who fought for the right, for the freedom to voice your opinion. He ended by thanking the men and women of BC Hydro who ensure the power always works when we turn on a switch in our homes in the morning. He then introduced Ralph Spinney who spent his entire career working on the large Hydro Electric projects across BC as Construction Manager, since 1956, retiring in 1989. He described the “tremendous surge” in infrastructure projects in the 50’s and 60’s and called them the “foundation for self sufficiency”.
Spinney acknowledged his doubts in 1961; that the project he was working on wasn’t required. “But the last five decades has provided a great education, for now in 2010 it’s easy to see the benefits that accrued and continue to accrue from the hydro electric projects like the Bennett Dam and to appreciate the foresight of the political leadership of the day who enabled the development of these projects.”
Peace River Valley at Bear Flat in 1979. This is the area which will be flooded, west of Taylor towards Hudson Hope