Site C. Will it be built in our life time? Will it remain a dream or a nightmare forever? Will the river run free while the sun shines? I’m not about to make predictions on paper.
However, I will bring you up to date on the most recent discussions the District of Chetwynd has had with BC Hydro regarding mitigating the potential impacts of any construction that does occur at Site C as well as employment and contracting benefits accruing to residents of Chetwynd as a result of construction going forward. We have to keep up with these conversations whether we support the project or whether we do not support it. It would be irresponsible for Mayor and Council to just let things slide.
While Hydro acknowledges that Chetwynd straddles two major supply lines to the construction site, we sense that Hydro planners may not be grasping the full importance of the project to Chetwynd from an impact perspective as well as from the perspective of the contribution that Chetwynd can make to the workforce. Are we too small and too far from the action? I don’t think so. To illustrate: Chetwynd is 45 minutes from the Pine River Gas Plant and about 60 minutes from the Site C construction site. Loggers and gas workers routinely commute an hour or more to their work sites. People commute daily to Dawson Creek for work – and from Dawson Creek to Chetwynd. We are used to distances. Commuting to Site C will be just part of the job for those who live in or choose to live in Chetwynd.
Hydro planners have estimated that only four Site C workers will live in Chetwynd. Really? That’s what we were told. In response we insisted that numbers from Chetwynd would be closer to 40 than to four. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the actual number turns out to be on the top side of 40.
Chetwynd is home to a wealth of skilled equipment operators. For every machine on the job site, there will have to be at least two operators. Many will live in the camps or in other communities but we in Chetwynd must have equal access to those opportunities. We stressed the need for local hiring, for a Chetwynd-based centre where potential employees could apply for work without having to battle the maze of absentee hiring halls.
We recognize the limitations imposed on major construction projects by the New West Partnership Trade Agreement that governs how major-project contracts are awarded, but we are sure that there are ways for the proponent to ensure that local residents have equal opportunity for employment. Those with equipment that meets the requirements for the job also must have equal opportunity to bid on the contracts. And we are not referring only to the clearing- and haul-road-building contracts. Major contractors must be required by contract to tender locally for equipment contracts, for safety contracts, for service contracts of all types.
Merlin Nichols, Mayor