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Greens say no to big dam plan

Controversy over the proposed Site C dam is surfacing once again this month as BC Hydro hears public input on its plan to put a swath of the Peace River Valley under water.

Yesterday the provincial Green Party announced its opposition to the dam, stating that a more diverse array of small-scale projects, like wind, geothermal and solar, are better than large hydroelectricity projects that come with costly transmission systems.

The dam's reservoir would encompass an 83-kilometer stretch of the Peace River southeast of Fort St. John, doubling or tripling the river's width in some places and leaving 5,340 hectares of the surrounding valley flooded.

BC Hydro, which has had plans for Site C on the table for more than a decade, estimates it would cost between five and seven billion dollars and produce enough electricity to power about 460,000 homes.

The fact that most of these homes are in the Lower Mainland, not Peace country, was one of the issues raised at a stakeholder consultation in Vancouver yesterday afternoon, says Jane Sterk, Green Party candidate for the Vancouver-Fairview riding.

"There were also all kinds of questions about the environmental impacts," said Sterk, noting that representatives from the David Suzuki Foundation, Wilderness Committee and Environment Canada also attended the meeting.

In the past year, the chief of the West Moberly First Nation and the head of the Peace Valley Environmental Association have spoken out against the dam because of their concerns for wildlife, but on the flip side of the Site C debate are groups like Citizens for Public Power and the Save our Rivers Society, which advocate for publicly-owned power production.

Given Premier Campbell's policy to procure electricity from the private sector, Site C may be the last chance BC Hydro has to develop its own power.

"We do support feed-in tariffs," said Sterk, referring to a mechanism that guarantees payment for producers of renewable energy, including individuals, co-ops and municipalities.

"We should always work towards public ownership before private ownerships...but there could be some small place for private companies," said Sterk.

Colleen Kimmett writes about energy and the environment for The Tyee.

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