Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Dam the River, and Damn the Rest

BC Hydro rushes to cut down eagles’ nests for Site C Dam, First Nations seek injunction

by Damien Gillis - Common Sense Canadian

Treaty 8 First Nations are seeking an injunction as BC Hydro rushes to cut down a number of Bald Eagles’ nests along the Peace River, starting next month, for Site C Dam.

The news came by way of a 30-day notice issued to Treaty 8 representatives on June 30 (read here).

Hydro received a package of permits from the BC Liberal government on July 7, authorizing a wide range of work on the controversial $9 Billion project – including one green-lighting the removal and destruction of eagles’ nests. Yet, with the dam facing multiple ongoing legal challenges, opponents are questioning the rush to cut down trees on various Peace River islands housing the nests – especially given the proposed reservoir wouldn’t be flooded for years, nor meaningful work undertaken on the dam site any time soon.

Drums of Peace

On August 7, Treaty 8 members held a cultural demonstration on the banks of the Peace – overlooking the proposed dam site and an island that is home to several eagles – to beat their drums and voice their opposition to the planned destruction of nests and the project as a whole.

“Eagles are very significant…to myself and my culture,” said Treaty 8 member Susan Auger.
It’s something that’s really got my blood boiling that they’re going to come and cut down eagles’ nests.
Injunction filed

Two Treaty 8 Nations filed a petition in BC Supreme Court last week to quash Hydro’s permits and halt work – on the basis that they have not been properly consulted on such matters. “We’re hoping that injunction happens sooner than later,” said Auger, ideally in mid-August, prior to the start of eagle nest destruction.

Hydro’s letter states that it “must compensate for the ‘removal or destruction of documented Bald Eagle nests by installing a minimum of 38 artificial nesting platforms’ during the construction period.”

That had West Moberly First Nations elder George Desjarlais mocking the utility:
Now, I don’t know how they communicated with the eagles – how they spoke with them to get them to understand that this is your new home.

First Nations draw big-name support

Site C has drawn strong criticism from a long list of influential groups and individuals – including, recently, former Hydro CEO Marc Eliesen and the now-retired Joint Review Panel Chair for the project, Harry Swain.

Site C work yard as of Aug 11, 2015 (Donald Hoffmann)

“With Site C, BC Hydro ratepayers will be facing a devastating increase of anywhere between 30 and 40 per cent over the next three years,” Eliesen told DeSmog Canada in a revealing interview earlier this month.
“There’s no rush. There’s no immediate need for Site C or any other alternative energy.”

The Treaty 8 First Nations and farmers on the front lines of the battle against Site C have garnered numerous other impressive supporters, including the BC Government Employees’ Union, the Board of Metro Vancouver, and former ALR Chair Richard Bullock.

And yet, Hydro seems intent on ploughing ahead, as it has already issued contracts for preparatory work on both the north and south banks of the river, near the dam site. This process is drawing criticism for its lack of transparency – and the fact that one big contract has already gone out of province, to an Alberta company.

“Before the courts”

“There’s no real saving right now by going ahead with this work,” says local businessman Bob Fedderly.
“It’s kind of hypocritical on [the Liberal Government’s] behalf when we can’t even talk about some things that are before the courts, and here we are going ahead with a project that’s being contested by various groups.”

Despite Hydro and the government’s posture, First Nations and their fellow dam opponents remain defiant – as Saulteau First Nations member Art Napoleon said at last week’s event.

“We are here to let them here our songs to remind them that, whatever it takes, we’re not going away.”

Damien Gillis is a Vancouver-based documentary filmmaker with a focus on environmental and social justice issues - especially relating to water, energy, and saving Canada's wild salmon - working with many environmental organizations in BC and around the world. He is the co-founder, along with Rafe Mair, of The Common Sense Canadian, and a board member of both the BC Environmental Network and the Haig-Brown Institute.
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