Fred Richer holds up a sign during the Site C protest in Nelson on Wednesday. Photo: Tyler Harper

Site C protest held outside Michelle Mungall’s office

The demonstration Wednesday was held following the NDP’s decision to continue the project

As the deadline approached for the NDP to make a decision on the fate of the Site C hydroelectric dam, Rik Logtenberg felt confident the controversial project would be scrapped.

Instead, the NDP announced Monday the dam’s construction would proceed. Logtenberg, who previously campaigned for Nelson-Creston MLA Michelle Mungall, was shocked.

“That was horrible. It was devastating,” he said.

“When you look at the Peace River from an ecological perspective, it’s a treasure. It really is. From an [agricultural and cultural] perspective, it’s a treasure. From an economic perspective, it’s a disaster. It’s not viable. It’s saddling us with a great deal of debt. It seemed to me such a clear and obvious decision that maybe I was overly optimistic but I felt that I was pretty confident the NDP was going to do the right thing.”

Logtenberg was one of about 20 protesters gathered outside Mungall’s Josephine Street office on Wednesday to show their disapproval with the Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources. Mungall’s office door was closed during the protest, but two of her staff gathered comments from protesters.

Mungall reiterated to the Star on Monday that she is not in favour of Site C, but decisions made by the previous Liberal government left her ruling party no choice.

Related: Site C dam decision ‘tough’ for Mungall

Related: Columbia River Treaty to be renegotiated in early 2018

That excuse didn’t hold much water with K.L. Kivi, who led the crowd in chants.

“We just want to keep holding [Mungall’s] feet to the fire,” she said. “We don’t want it to just pass by and say, ‘oh, too bad.’ Part of the democratic process is continuing to speak up, continuing to speak our truth regardless of the outcome. We’re here just to let her know no, this is not OK with us and we’ll continue to fight.”

Site C has been under construction for two years. B.C. Premier John Horgan said shutting it down would cost $4 billion, and that hydro rates would rise 12 per cent by 2020.

The final cost of the project is estimated to be $10.7 billion by the time it is completed in 2024.

“That money could have been put toward wind energy, other sources of renewables,” said Kivi. “This is a near-sighted decision. We need a far-sighted decision. We need for my grandchildren and great grandchildren not to be paying for this dam for 70 years.”

Logtenberg said he was surprised the lessons of the Columbia River Treaty hadn’t been considered in the Site C decision.

The treaty was signed between Canada and the United States in 1964 and led to the construction of three dams in B.C. and one in Montana. It also meant several Kootenay communities were flooded along with traditional Sinixt land, and had major ecological consequences.

“We’ve felt the ramifications here in the Kootenays on a deep level. To see this happen again in the Peace is pretty shocking,” said Logtenberg. “It’s like we hadn’t learned that lesson, or the lesson we’ve learned here in the Kootenays wasn’t conveyed to the decision makers, which in the case of Michelle Mungall is pretty surprising.

“She knows the issue. She knows the pain that it has caused a lot of people here in the Kootenays. She knows the damage it has caused ecologically, and yet has made this decision. [That] makes it all the more painful.”

Martin Carver was among the people taking part in the protest. The local resident has a PhD in hydrology from the University of British Columbia and has researched the downstream impacts of Site C on First Nations.

He said he was primarily concerned about the effect the dam’s construction would have on Alberta’s Wood Buffalo National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site where the Peace River meets the Athabasca River.

“We seem to be primarily hearing that the decision is about bond ratings and the conversion of that $4 billion into the number of hospitals and highways,” said Carver, “and there’s so many more considerations going on than that, but that’s what we’re hearing about from the government, which is very discouraging.”



tyler.harper@nelsonstar.com

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CORRECTION: A previous version of this story stated the Columbia River Treaty led in part to the disappearance of salmon in the river. In fact, that had begun previous to the treaty.

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