For residents of B.C.'s northeastern communities and beyond who oppose the Site C hydro dam project, the closing of the joint review panel hearings last week was bittersweet -- the sessions gave First Nations, community groups, environmental organizations, special interests, ranchers, farmers and residents the chance to create a unified voice that resoundingly said "No Dam Way" -- not only on our own behalf, but on behalf of all British Columbians. We know our voices were heard, loud and clear.
We are optimistic the panel will find in favour of putting to rest a project that has already been rejected twice due to safety concerns and skyrocketing costs. A project that will result in unprecedented rate increases for all ratepayers across the province. A project that will decimate irreplaceable agricultural, recreational and aboriginal heritage sites. A project whose energy will be sold at a loss on the open market. In the minds of many in this province, this is a project that is not needed.
Northeastern B.C. has and continues to be overwhelmed by resource development, both proposed and underway. There are so many in fact, that if they were all to go ahead, it would leave literally no area in our region untouched.
We question where the region's breaking point is. We question how much is too much. We want to be clear that we are not opposed to development opportunities, our region has been welcoming oil, gas and mining projects for nearly 60 years. We simply want developers and government, including organizations like BC Hydro to respect the rights and values of those who live here every day.
We want large-scale industrial development to face the scrutiny of a regional strategic environmental assessment that takes into consideration acceptable impacts and risks of development that balances the needs of everyone in the region, with a priority focus on sustainable alternatives.
Site C was never looked at through this lens and was evaluated as a stand-alone project, pushed on our region with little regard for the fact that its impacts and risks are too much for our communities to bear.
We now await the report from the joint review panel. We are currently planning our next steps regardless of the decision this coming spring. If the recommendations are for the project to proceed, we vow to continue our fight, in the communities and in the courtroom if needed, on behalf of all those in B.C. who choose a sustainable energy future over building these archaic energy mega-projects.