The David Suzuki Foundation is cautiously optimistic that senior governments will follow the Joint Review Panel's direction today on the Site C dam project. The panel did not find in favour of or against the proposed project, but did raise concerns that the dam would have significant cumulative environmental and social impacts, including contributing to the further degradation of sensitive wildlife habitat in the Peace Region.
"The David Suzuki Foundation, Parks Canada and First Nations living downstream from the proposed dam raised concerns with the Joint Review Panel that the Site C dam would further impact a region already under serious threat from shale gas exploration, logging and other industrial development," said the foundation's Faisal Moola, who presented to the panel. "Our research shows a perfect storm of industrial activities and this massive hydro project may be the straw that breaks the camel's back."
Research commissioned by the foundation and presented to the panel indicates that nearly two-thirds of the Peace River's watersheds have been affected by industrial development. The valley and surrounding areas are now dominated by a growing patchwork of clear-cuts, oil wells, mines, roads, transmission lines, pipelines and seismic lines, as well as earlier large-scale hydro development on the river.
The Peace region already has 16,267 oil and gas well sites and 8,517 petroleum and natural gas facilities. The B.C. government's liquefied natural gas development plans promise to intensify this footprint.
The area planned for Site C dam development has also been recognized as a continental-scale conservation priority for the protection of wildlife habitat and movement corridors for endangered populations of woodland caribou, grizzlies and other large migratory animals. Concerns have been raised that the project would cut off the ecological connectivity for some of these wide-ranging wildlife species.
"BC Hydro commented on cumulative effects at a smaller scale in their proposal, but we believe a more responsible approach would be to look at the bigger regional picture and plan to balance the impact of industrial developments accordingly," Moola said. "In addition to climate change, the cumulative effects of land use are the primary driver of the degradation and loss of nature. We hope that government takes cumulative impacts into account when it decides whether to proceed with this project."
For information, contact:
Dr. Faisal Moola
Director General, Ontario and Northern Canada