Wendy Holm was born in New York City in 1946. She came to Vancouver in 1970 and subsequently described herself as 'passionately Canadian'. She received her Master's degree in agricultural economics from UBC and has edited Water and Free Trade, about the Mulroney government's agenda for Canada's water. Her Liquid Assets, with Donald Gutstein, is forthcoming and she has contributed to Crossing the Line, an anthology of essays about Canada and free trade with Mexico. She is a director of VanCity and has worked as a resource economist since 1973. Holm was also director and co-producer of a television series, Growing Together: The Urban/Rural Connection. She lives on Bowen Island.

[BCBW 1992]

Damming the Peace: The Hidden Costs of the Site C Dam
by Wendy Holm (editor) (James Lorimer $22.95)

Review by John Gellerd

As early as the 1950s, the US Army Corps of Engineers conceived of diverting water from west of the Rockies to the east side of the continent.

The so-called North American Water and Power Alliance was conceived to make it happen. Donald Trump has tweeted, ?It is so ridiculous where they are taking the water and shoving it out to sea.?

So how seriously do we have to consider the possibility that Site C is about exporting water in the future? In contributor Joyce Nelson?s view, the Site C reservoir is the last essential link in this process. If Trump gets his way via his revised NAFTA agreement, impounded water will be a commodity to be exported and Site C will be at the centre of a new water-based geopolitics of North America.

In her own book, Beyond Banksters: Resisting the New Feudalism, Joyce Nelson also devotes a chapter to the looming issue of bulk water exports. In Damming the Peace, Nelson exposes the ?diabolical thesis? that North American water is a ?shared resource.?

In editor Wendy Holm?s contribution, she writes that ?The rich alluvial soils of the Peace River Valley are part of our foodland commons.? Loss of the commons has never been included in economic evaluations. It?s an ?externality.? She claims Site C entails losing the capacity to feed at least a million people per year, in perpetuity.

Alex Harris, a videographer, provides links to videos of interviews she has conducted during her trips to the Peace River Valley and she contributes the preface. David Schindler refutes the myth that hydro dams produce clean green energy, claiming they produce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and they poison fish.

B.C. might need 75,000 gigawatt-hours per year by 2030, and the 1,100 megawatt Site C Dam will generate 5,100 GWh per year, but environmentalist and author Guy Dauncey persuasively argues that we don?t need this kind of power. He claims demand can be met by renewables: solar, wind, geothermal, and Demand Side Management.

Biologist Brian Churchill documents why the Peace Valley is a ?biodiversity hotspot.? The uniquely benign microclimate brings species from several eco-regions together with species not found outside the Valley.

?Governments have forsaken their traditional monitoring [of this] island of nature in a sea of human disturbance,? he claims. Former NDP environment minister Joan Sawicki critiques Hydro?s failure to include the miraculously benign microclimate in its analysis.

Journalist Andrew Nikiforuk describes the dangers of fracking: earthquakes, huge consumption of water, and discharge of toxins. In a second chapter, he addresses the effect on the Athabasca Delta of the Bennett Dam. The added drying caused by Site C would be ?history repeating itself as a rotten farce.?
Playwright/ journalist Silver Donald Cameron tells of lawyer Antonio Oposa, who used the law to stop destruction of forests in the Philippines. Cameron reveals that ?Canada?refuses to recognize the human right to a healthy environment.?

Agrologist Reg Whiten, examines ?social license.? The B.C. public never did grant the Site C Dam a social license (as in ?Governments give permits but communities give permission.?)

Environmental activist Briony Penn discusses the cumulative impact of Site C. Environmental assessments evaluate projects in isolation, neglecting connections. ?There is a threshold beyond which the system will lose the capacity to recover.? Elder Clarence Apsassin of Blueberry River First Nation agrees. ?Our earth is dying. It is gradually being destroyed.?

The late radio personality Rafe Mair argues on behalf of civil disobedience: ?An evil like the Site C Dam?that will flood vital food lands? trample the rights of First Nations, destroy habitat ? threaten the Athabasca Delta? is supported by? governments and those who stand to profit from its construction.?

Considering Indigenous resistance, author Andrew MacLeod presents the experience of Helen Knott, of the Prophet River First Nation. Her reserve is 3.8 sq. km., while Dene Zaa territory is 25,000 sq. km. Treaty 8 affirms First Nations have the right to pursue traditional vocations ?except where the land may be taken up for settlement or other purposes,? like the flooding of the Peace River Valley. The italicized clause is clearly problematic and disempowering.

?I want to get rid of the Indian problem,? proposed Duncan Campbell Scott of the Department of Indian Affairs, in 1910. Warren Bell, a family physician, shows why Site C is ?simply the culmination of a sustained process of exploitation.? The health of a population depends on the health of the ecosystem. Bell looks forward to ?a time of global healing.? Journalist and photographer Zoe? Ducklow, asks ?Is Site C Really Past The Point Of No Return?? Local resident Arlene Boon says: ?We have until the water rises to stop the dam.? 9781459413160

Two other books on this subject are breaching the peace: The Site C Dam and a Valley?s Stand against Big Hydro (UBC Press $24.95), edited by Sarah Cox, and The Peace in Peril (Harbour $24.95) by Christopher Pollon and photojournalist Ben Nelms.

John Gellard is a retired Vancouver English teacher. He travels extensively in British Columbia taking a keen interest in environmental issues.

[BCBW 2019]