Some of BC’s Best Farmland will be flooded if Site C Is Approved

By Roy L Hales

Screen-shot-2014-03-18-at-3.43.47-PM1This is agricultural land capable of producing as wide a variety of crops as the Fraser Valley. Close to  9,429 acres of class 1-5 farmland  will be flooded. Another 4,451 acres will be used for the dams, roads or is subject to erosion. Some of BC’s best farmland will be flooded if Site C is approved.

Some of BC’s Best Farmland will be flooded if Site C Is Approved

Meanwhile, according to senior soil scientist Wendy Holm, 45% of the foods that could be economically grown in this province are being imported.

Screenshot 2014-11-26 13.26.45
Land that would be flooded by Proposed Site C Dam, an $8 billion mega-project that would flood 80 kilometers of forests, farms and homes – Courtesy the Wilderness Committee.

“The land to be flooded is capable of providing an annual, local, sustainably produced supply of fresh vegetables to over a million people,” Holm wrote.

Holm’s clients come from numerous agricultural, forestry and consulting firms as well as National, Provincial and municipal Canadian government departments.

No SIgnificant Impact?

BC Hydro’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), based on the 2011 Census of Agriculture, disagrees. It states the Site C dam would not have a significant impact on agriculture.

To which some local inhabitants have responded the Peace River’s agricultural potential has not been fully realized because this land has been under the shadow of the dam for the past 55 years. BC Hydro has bought up 80% of the agricultural land that will be flooded. Though some farmers are renting land back,they are not willing to make a significant investment.

Downstream of Proposed Site C - Gerry Tuchodi, cc by 2.0
(Click on image to enlarge)  Downstream of Proposed Site C – Gerry Tuchodi, cc by 2.0

Holm added that the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Site C dam “fails to grasp adequately the full impact of the Project on agriculture and to demonstrate credibility its findings and conclusions.”

She has submitted a report to the review panel that concludes (p 27):

  • “the Potential impacts on agriculture have been seriously underestimated”
  • “the adequacy and appropriateness of proposed mitigation and compensation measures have been seriously overestimated; and, therefore,
  • “the EIS conclusion that the effect of the Project on agriculture is ‘Not Significant’ is not valid.”

Outstanding Productivity, Quality & Freshness

Holm mentioned (pp12-13) her visit to a farm that was harvesting the last of its potatoes, carrots and beets on October 24, 2013. She described the produce as being “of outstanding quality and freshness.” The farmer told her that he grew tomatoes and cantaloupe, and was able to produce marketable corn two weeks earlier than his relatives in Salmon Arm.

Looking east down the Peace River at Clayhurst - Gerry Tuchodi, cc by 2.0
(Click on image to enlarge) Looking east down the Peace River at Clayhurst – Gerry Tuchodi, cc by 2.0

This is in line with the other statistics Holm presented (p 14). In a 1983 submission to the Site C hearings, Larry Peterson described how his fields were yielding 13.6 tons of commercial potatoes per acre at a time when BC’s average was 10.2. Last year Blane and MaryAnn Meek were getting 78-82 bushels of wheat; the average yield in Alberta is 47.9 bushels. Similarly, the Meeks grew 82 bushels of canola when Albertans were getting 36.4 bushels.

“The productivity of the agricultural land in the Peace River Valley is incredible:  it is unique not only in the Peace River region, but in British Columbia and Western Canada.  Farmers in the valley report yields that are unheard of elsewhere in BC,“ added Eveline Wolterson, M. Sc., P. Ag., EP.

“It is not well known that crop yields actually increase as you move from southern BC to northern BC.  This is due to better precipitation, more hours of daily sunlight during the growing season and lower wind speeds.”

Looking west down the Peace River from the Clayhurst bridge. - Gerry Tuchodi, cc by 2.0
(Click on image to enlarge) Looking west down the Peace River from the Clayhurst bridge. – Gerry Tuchodi, cc by 2.0

This 1965 evaluation from Art Guitard, Director of the Beaverlodge Research Station, is almost prophetic:

“…it is a region of exceedingly good productivity. …There is a broad-based diversified agricultural industry. …climate is extremely favourable. …favourable distribution of moisture, combined with lower evaporation than in the south, makes efficient moisture use possible. … the reduction in the growing season is compensated for by increase in day-length. The portion of the crop that is produced for seed is particularly significant. … virtually all of Canada’s seed of creeping red fescue… 40% of Canada’s alfalfa seed, 20% of sweet clover, 50% of red clover and 70% of Alsike clover. All grow well.

“Complementary to legume seed production is a rapidly expanding honey industry that will be based on output from approximately 50,000 colonies of bees.

“…Finally now in the region a nucleus of small but diversified horticultural enterprises producing potatoes, carrots, turnips, cucumber, tomatoes, cabbage, sweet corn and other staples. … What must concern us is… the economic forces that may exist in the future to cause this land to be developed improperly….”

(Image at top of page:  Looking west on the Peace River towards Hudson’s Hope and the Halfway River. Some of this land will be flooded should the Site C Peace River dam project eventually go ahead – Gerry Tuchodi, cc by 2.0)

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