Before presenting his findings to the Regional District board, Beamish stressed the importance of documenting B.C. Hydro’s promises, so future governments will be able to track them and follow up on them, urging, “You need some mechanism to hold them accountable.” Although he says Hydro has done a thorough job studying the project over many years, he argues more work needs to be done to make sure their interests are protected in the long run, including additional studies.
“Promises or commitments made in the Environmental Impact Statement are documented in several local regional agreements,” he maintains Hydro must do, “that adherence to any such agreements is monitored from the pre-construction phase until at least 10 years after operations have commenced, and that B.C. Hydro sets aside sufficient funds to establish and administer a joint monitoring committee responsible to ensure that any unanticipated impacts can be adequately and promptly mitigated, either proactively or as an emergency response.”
Beamish also criticized B.C. Hydro’s seemingly “wait and see” approach to some potential impacts that couldn’t be properly predicted in the EIS. When it comes to Hudson’s Hope’s sewer treatment plan, the Charlie Lake outfall, Fort St. John and Taylor’s water supplies and private wells and septic systems, Hydro only plans to respond to those potential impacts if and when they occur.
“The PRRD and Communities should develop a strong position with respect to these issues which have potential to harm their municipalities and residents,” he argues, suggesting additional studies, emergency response plans, and contingency funds as options.
Both Beamish and Henry repeatedly mentioned that the EIS does not properly address the cumulative effect of all of the major developments and activities proposed for this region, which will likely overlap. On the environmental side, Henry refers to this as “natural capital”, which is all of the Earth’s natural assets, and ecosystems, which make life possible.
“We have recognized that there is no capture of natural capital in the EIS,” she says, “and we recommend that we put forward a comment in the way of, ‘Has B.C. Hydro attempted to quantify the natural capital of the Peace River Valley?’.”
Many other issues the consultants felt needed better addressing included revenues, noise, and wildlife resources, as well as land. Their report and proposed questions will be looked over by the PRRD Directors for comment by next Thursday. Submissions will be made by April 4, and as they have registered as a participant in the Site C Joint Review Panel working group, they will also review Hydro’s responses to other submissions, and if they choose, prepare to submit and present to the Joint Review Panel.
The Site C Project Review Interim Report and proposed questions are available on the PRRD’s website.