What thoughts lodge in your mind when you hear someone speak fondly of the Peace River Valley that has sliced through our great Alberta Plateau for thousands of years? Does the very thought of a pile of dirt across the valley, the proposed Site C dam, get your juices flowing? Do you have a strong opinion on whether the river should be left to flow unimpeded, undisturbed, while the sun shines and the grass grows tall along its banks?
There are opinions out there. One faction is working hard to bring the project to fruition; another would lie down in front of the earth movers to prevent it. Where do you stand – or lie?
You might think that Chetwynd will not be much affected whatever the outcome of the present efforts to push through the environmental assessment. On the one hand, if the proposed project blows away in a gale of hot air, nothing much will change here. On the other, if the process culminates in the earth being reconfigured in the Peace Valley, with new power lines snaking across our northern horizon, and with new dynamos humming sonorously at the bottom of the penstocks, well then, what will have changed here in the process?
Imagine thousands of highly skilled workers focusing their energies for seven years to create this new power house. Fort St. John, being just over the hill and next door to the work site, will be enormously affected in the short-term construction phase. But think again; and think further. Chetwynd is only an hour away from the site. How many skilled tradespeople, machine operators, engineers, contractors already live in Chetwynd or would choose Chetwynd over FSJ for any number of reasons that we could mention? How many would choose Chetwynd over camp life at the project site? We need to think about attracting them to our community.
There is another side of the picture that we must not ignore. Thousands of tons of cement, steel, rock, and other materials will have to be moved through Chetwynd en route to the construction site. By rail or by truck, this traffic will place huge stresses on the transportation systems. Granted, if the rock from the Pine Pass is moved by rail, the unit trains likely would not be stopping in Chetwynd to assemble themselves but the traffic through town would be significant. Council has raised all of these issues with BC Hydro over the last 18 or so months.
To date, Council has not taken a position on the wisdom of constructing the proposed Site C Dam and it is unlikely that Council will take a position. Council sees its role as two-fold: protecting the interests and integrity of Chetwynd in the event that the project goes forward and working to achieve a regional legacy that will benefit the community as long as the sun shines, the grass grows, and water spins the turbines in the power house.
What’s your position?
Merlin Nichols, Mayor