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Local director snubbed at Site C event

While several provincial cabinet ministers were in the front row for yesterday's announcement on proceeding with the Site C hydroelectric project, to be located six kilometres southwest of Fort St. John, the rural director for that area was not even invited.

“I would always like to believe that truth and honesty will be at the forefront of anything that happens with our democracy, but really it was demonstrated today that democracy is really at risk,” said Arthur Hadland, the area C director for the Peace River Regional District, a seed farmer, and a frequent critic of plans to build the 900-megawatt hydroelectric dam. He represents about 7,000 people in the semi-rural area around Fort St. John.

“The director for area C was not invited; area C is the area where the Site C dam site is going to be,” he said. “There wasn't even an invitation; it's totally an orchestrated roadshow.”

While the announcement took place at the visitor centre at the W.A.C. Bennett dam (known as the site B dam prior to its completion in 1968), Hadland was found amongst of group of about 30 Peace Valley Environment Association members protesting at the Hudson's Hope airstrip, where they'd hoped to gain an audience with the premier and mainstream media before their planes returned to Vancouver.

Asked about the effects of the dam's reservoir on farm land in the Peace River Valley during a post-announcement media scrum, premier Gordon Campbell said only a single section (one square mile) of Class One farm land would be submerged. (Class One land has the highest amount of growing degree-days).

“He's right - the problem is, there's a whole bunch of Class Two land in combination with that,” Hadland said. “It is a unique growing site. And if they do flood the valley, they're going to have slumping, and it's going to be a far greater impact than what they're describing right now.”

Mayors of all communities in the region were invited to the event, though Hudson's Hope mayor Karen Anderson said she was told it would be a discussion, rather than an announcement about B.C.'s “clean energy development”, as media were informed.

“I'm very surprised that Arthur Hadland was not asked to come to this announcement,” she said. “That somebody as involved as he is was overlooked today – that doesn't sit well with me.”

Leaders from the Treaty 8 First Nations - the eight First Nations whose territories would be affected by the massive project – were invited but boycotted the event, instead issuing a press release characterizing the project as “further exploitation of natural resources”.

A delegation of “power pioneers” who'd been involved in the design and build of the W.A.C. Bennett Dam did attend, and were on hand to be honoured by Campbell for their contributions.

Asked whether he plans to make submissions under the environmental assessment (EA) process that has now received the green light to proceed, Hadland said the process would be redundant.

“We had a full assessment review done in 1981, and it covered off all those issues,” he said. “They told us there would be brownouts and blackouts. Thirty-four years later we haven't had any, so who would you trust?”

Hadland ran as an independent candidate Peace River North in 2009 provincial election, garnering more than 30 per cent of vote but losing to BC Liberal candidate Pat Pimm.

Greg Amos is a contributor to The Tyee.

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