New additions for proposed Site C dam
By Kyla Corpuz
Fort St. John and surrounding residents address BC Hydro representatives at the latest Site C public open house.
FORT ST. JOHN – Continued planning for the proposed Site C dam took place in the Peace earlier this month.
The latest update on the project revealed new additions for transportation and it has also been determined how much agricultural land will be permanently used if construction takes place.
New projects for Site C
Two new permanent access roads and a temporary bridge have been added to the project that was not previously slated in the original blue print.
Dave Conway manager for communications said this would not increase the estimated price of Site C, which sits at $7.9 billion.
“The $7.9 billion cost estimate for Site C is based on the project’s upgraded design that was filed in the Project Description Report with regulators. This upgraded design and cost estimate includes a temporary access bridge, and construction access roads,” Conway told the Northeast News in an email. “The cost estimate also includes an appropriate amount of contingency (18 per cent on direct construction costs) to allow for potential changes in project costs that may result from further design work or other factors, such as the cost of equipment or materials.”
In addition to several upgraded roads and temporary new roads, BC Hydro is proposing to construct a permanent 34-kilometre road to access the dam construction site.
It will run from where Jackfish Lake Road passes under the existing 138-kilovolt transmission lines.
According to a BC Hydro discussion guide the new road would allow for a “safe, reliable, dedicated access route” for Site C construction traffic.
The 269 Road is also looking at being permanently expanded by 600 metres to provide construction access to the dam site.
A temporary access bridge would also be built south of Fort St. John to mitigate traffic flow on already existing, popular routes.
“We are proposing to build one temporary construction access bridge from the north bank of the Peace River to the south bank in order to move people and equipment back and forth during construction,” said Conway.
The bridge would be built in year two of construction, and removed in year four. BC Hydro has anticipated that the dam will take seven years to build.
While the latest BC Hydro consultation meeting informed Fort St. John and surrounding residents of alternate transportation routes to mitigate congestion on roads, during year five of production commuters who use the Old Fort Road, 240 Road and 269 Road would see an increase.
An additional 30 vehicles have been forecasted to use those roads.
The cost of agricultural land
Thirty-two farm operations could expect to be partially affected by the Site C construction; and one farm would lose a majority of its agricultural land base, according to BC Hydro.
“I guess that’s us,” said Ken Boom, who attended the latest Site C open house.
“We live right at Bear Flat along the river, so we would lose most of our land and our house, that’s third generation to us.”
Boon farms the land that he lives on, owns a campground near by and builds log cabins.
“It would be a huge devastating impact to us.”
One of the new roads that BC Hydro is proposing to build would run through his campground.
“We’re just one family, there’s many more through the valley. It’s just frustrating, especially since we know there are better alternatives.”
Siobhan Jackson, BC Hydro representative, said the majority of affected land, impacted by the possible flooding to make room for a reservoir, would be in the lower areas of the valley.
Boon said getting rid of that land would be a loss to all of the Peace country, as many of the good agriculture land is located at the bottom of the banks.
“Down in the valley … has good Class 1 and 2 soils, you can grow cantaloupes down there, corn all the time; you can’t rely on that on top,” said Boon. “We’ve got good farm land in this community.”
A total of 3,225 ha within the proposed Site C reservoir area will be permanently used by the project and no longer available for agricultural land.
Approximately 600 ha, currently used for crop production, would cease operation if the dam were approved.
BC Hydro is instigating agricultural compensation programs.
“Generally mitigation will focus on maintaining or increasing agricultural productivity on lands not directly affected by the project,” states the latest BC Hydro consultation report.
From crop irrigation research, development, infrastructure to enhance agriculture in the Peace, invasive plant management, range and pasture improvements and projects to increase food for horses and cattle.
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