Now you know, or you should know, because the news has been released. For months the Peace River Regional District and the area municipalities have been quietly working with BC Hydro to create a Legacy springing from the construction of the Site C Dam. Not that the dam is already interrupting the natural flow of the Peace, or even that it’s construction is assured, but if the project receives the nod, the Legacy is in place for us who live in the Peace.
Question one: What’s in it for us? Commencing with the first month of power production, the Legacy will be realized in real, unfettered Canadian dollars over a 70-year period. Weighted 60% on population and 40% on regional percentage of the perceived project impacts, the formula allocates 5.49 % of the total funding to Chetwynd. With a base annual allocation of 2.4 million indexed to the average CPI after the first payment, you can do the math to answer the question.
Question two: Does the agreement treat all communities and rural areas fairly? Reaching agreement on how to disperse a Legacy fund can never be easy – because there is never enough. Coming to eye-to-eye consensus on major points of difference probably will never happen. Ultimately, a compromise that achieves even part of what we hoped to achieve is the best we can achieve. That’s the world we live in. So be it! Yes, I believe it is a fair agreement, as fair as is possible given that we are all human beings, but I sympathize with many of the concerns expressed by those whose lives will be more affected by the construction of the dam than is our life in Chetwynd. To lose one’s land; to have to move; to experience an unwanted change of lifestyle; these are traumatic experiences that leave lasting hurts. But these are not the major focus of the Legacy fund. These community-specific circumstances have to be addressed through mitigation measures derived from negotiation with BC Hydro.
Question three: How will we use the Legacy funds? Wisely, I trust. I won’t be around long enough to see if the community uses them wisely. But here is my opinion of what wise will still look like in twenty or forty years: wise will not use Legacy funds for routine operational expenses otherwise covered by the tax base; wise will use them for funding needs like sewer and water and road repairs. Perhaps they will fund those extras that make a community special. But don’t forget that most of those extras come with operational costs that will have to be funded from the tax base. Wise could even choose to forego spending for a few years to build a fund for something very special. I hardly dare to dream what those very special uses might be, but I have a vision of a community that is kind to the aged, that cares for its young, and provides for the providers.
Merlin Nichols, Mayor