The Peace River Regional District (PRRD) in northeast B.C. is continuing to press for a community measures agreement to mitigate the impacts of the Site C dam and generating station project on residents and services.
Most local governments and First Nations experiencing impacts from the project have negotiated deals. However, although discussions with BC Hydro have taken place no agreement has been reached with PRRD.
“It’s difficult to say why no agreement has been reached,” said PRRD chair Brad Sperling, “but I am pleased to say that discussions are now ongoing because our residents have been experiencing impacts from Site C construction for the past five years or longer, and resolving this is important to them.”
BC Hydro has concluded community agreements with the City of Fort St. John, and the districts of Chetwynd, Hudson’s Hope and Taylor, and signed deals with First Nations communities in the Peace region.
The agreements address the adverse impacts on services taking place during the construction period of Site C and also following completion of the project. Funds in the agreements are part of the project’s estimated $10.7-billion construction budget.
Over the last several months, PRRD has been engaging with BC Hydro to address concerns but progress has been slow. Meanwhile, construction continues.
Sperling notes that PRRD is not asking for extraordinary measures but wants to make sure that regional district services be maintained at least at pre-Site C levels so that district residents are no worse off.
“The Regional District and BC Hydro share the common objective of ensuring that Site C benefits all residents of the Peace Region. Once again, the regional district welcomes the jobs and economic benefits that Site C is bringing to our region, but we need a community measures agreement to ensure any adverse effects of Site C on the regional district, its services and residents are fully addressed,” he added.
In the runup to the recent B.C. election, PRRD released a laundry list of issues that need attention, including financial compensation in recognition of the special effects that Site C construction is having on residents. The district asked candidates for assistance in negotiating a community measures agreement.
The list covered 14 specific areas, including traffic issues and efforts to mitigate dust and a plan to address the detrimental effects Site C will have on regional aggregate supply. Other specifics include the design, construction and maintenance of new boat launches and developing and implementing a plan to retain heritage, cultural and archeological artifacts in the region.
“The issues around Site C are important to our residents, and we want to move quickly to resolve them,” noted Sperling. “The PRRD is anxious to conclude the agreement as the effects of Site C construction are continuing and the construction period is projected to continue for at least another five years.
“We want to collaborate with BC Hydro to address a number of concerns that have arisen during construction. Some of them are financial, and in some cases it may be necessary to have the support of the provincial government. Some of them will not be fully addressed by financial or other means once Site C becomes operational.”
There are a variety of financial requests the PRRD is putting forward. Direct compensation being sought from BC Hydro for solid waste management and lost property tax revenue is $10 million while the request being made for effects on an area known as Electoral Area C is an additional $7 million.
In terms of non-financial requests, PRRD has concerns about a number of issues relating to traffic management, future access to the Site C reservoir for community water supplies, and recognition of the effects of Site C on aggregate supply in the region.
PRRD understands from discussions with BC Hydro that the utility has developed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the provincial Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI) regarding aggregate sources which will be available for road construction following Site C completion.
The PRRD recognizes the importance of the regional road network and is pleased to hear that the MoU is in place to provide an ongoing aggregate supply to MoTI, Sperling said.
“What is concerning, however, is the availability of aggregate supply to many other users within the PRRD. Local governments need good aggregate supplies for their roadbuilding programs. Land developers who are constructing buildings and paving subdivision roads and parking lots also require various forms of aggregate. And the resource industries, which are foundational to the economy of our region, rely on aggregates.”
A good example is the drilling pads for natural gas wells, said Sperling.
“The PRRD has a responsibility to reflect the concerns of these users, who may experience both shortages and increased costs of aggregates as a result of Site C construction. This is why the PRRD is pressing BC Hydro to address this as part of the community measures agreement.”
With discussions ongoing, Sperling said he would like to see an agreement in principle by January 2021.