River expert predicts Site-C impact on lower Peace

A world-renowned river expert says the proposed Site-C dam will not have a large impact on the lower Peace River.

Dr. Mike Church was in Fort St. John last week to discuss dam implications on the river’s downstream landscape.

He talked about the topic on Issues and Answers on Wednesday morning.

Church has been studying the WAC Bennett Dam’s impact since it was first constructed in the early 1960’s.

He says at that time, many thought that the Peace River would degrade downstream. But, he says the opposite effect has happened, and that sediment is actually accumulating down the river.

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Dr. Church is a globally-acknowledged expert on rivers, their channels and surrounding catchment areas, and how they respond to human pressure and natural change.

He has been studying the Peace River for decades now, and has the most detailed follow-up study to the damming of a major northern river to date. Dr. Church has made predictions about the effects of existing and additional dams, and about the ultimate adjustment of the river.

Church says while there has been little change to downstream topography on the Peace River, there has been an impact on the streams and small rivers that run into it.

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If the Site-C Dam project is approved, it would be placed downstream from the WAC Bennett Dam. The project would be a ‘Run-of-River’ facility, which means the dam would recycle water already processed by the WAC Bennett Dam.

Church says while there would be a massive change to the river upstream from the third dam, the downstream section would suffer little impact.

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Church says the Peace River downstream will continue to change, but that won’t be from Site-C. He also says the river still has centuries to adapt to the impacts of the WAC Bennett Dam.

Dr. Church is a Professor Emeritus in the Department of Geography at the University of British Columbia.

To listen to Wednesday’s Issues and Answers, click here.