In case you haven’t noticed, I have been trying to stir up and uncover Chetwynd’s thinking on the proposed Site C dam. So far, my efforts have generated only 16 responses – hardly enough to shift my position. BC Hydro’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is now complete and in my office – all seven cartons containing 28 two- and three-inch binders packed with convincing arguments to move forward without delay on construction. If nothing else will convince, just the sight of the stacked-to-the-ceiling boxes is a powerful, mind-altering experience.
Putting the daunting sight of the EIS containers behind us for the moment, I think you should be aware of some of the concerns of the regional communities that would be most affected by construction of Site C – Fort St. John, Hudson’s Hope, Chetwynd, and Taylor.
As you might expect, Fort St. John, situated virtually on top of the proposed action, can expect some significant alterations. There will be social issues related to the things men (especially) do when they have money in their pockets and apparently nothing productive to occupy their time. (Maybe visit the Public Library.) Airport upgrades could be required to handle the increased traffic. Altered vehicle traffic volumes and patterns will have to be accommodated. Housing? Emergencies? And then it’s over and FSJ can go back to normal except no one remembers what normal looks like.
Hudson’s Hope’s is a different sort of challenge. The lake will wash its shores and wash some of them away. The beautiful Alwin Holland Park on the river, just west of town, will be swallowed up. Hudson’s Hope will never be quite the same again. A new normal for the new generation will have emerged. All is not bad; some changes will be positive benefits.
Downstream from the construction site is the District of Taylor, bisected by the mighty Peace and straddling the world-famous Alaska Highway. Taylor will face some very real challenges as increased traffic volumes rumble through town. Changes in water temperatures in the river will affect the viability of fish stocks. As for positive changes, we’ll have to look for them.
In Chetwynd we will encounter long-lasting effects from the movement of 800,000 cubic meters of rock from the Pine Pass quarry to the dam site. By truck or by rail, we will know it is passing through. Chetwynd will bear the brunt of the transportation of the rock but will it end with worn-out roads?
Your elected representatives and professional administrators are keeping our collective and unique issues before Hydro continuously. Hydro officials are aware of Fort St. John’s concerns around traffic, dust, noise, and population. Hudson’s Hope’s desires to maintain the integrity of their community cannot be misunderstood. Chetwynd and Taylor have not been remiss in keeping our positions before the decision makers.
As communities sharing the joys and challenges of life in the Peace, we must maintain real unity as we endeavour to minimize potential negative repercussions of this enormous project.
Merlin Nichols, Mayor