A lawyer for First Nations aiming to stop work on the Site C dam says there’s no remedy besides taking the project “out of the ground” in northeastern British Columbia.
Reidar Mogerman says the West Moberly First Nations’ way of life has already been disrupted by a reservoir created by the W.A.C. Bennett Dam, the largest hydroelectric dam on the Peace River.
The First Nations are seeking an injunction in B.C. Supreme Court to stop Site C while BC Hydro and the provincial government claim the project has already cost billions of dollars.
Mogerman says the First Nations have put “a ton of resources” into getting displaced cariboo back after the animals dispersed following the completion of the W.A.C. Bennett dam in the late 1960s.
The First Nations say Site C would flood parts of the of the Peace River Valley, the traditional territory of the West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations, violating constitutionally protected treaty rights.
Mogerman says what used to be river a moose would cross is a reservoir an animal would die in and the project must be stopped because it has not gone past the point of no return.
Chief Roland Willson of the West Moberly First Nations says Site C would introduce mercury-laden fish into Moberly Lake and disrupt the longest fresh-water fish migration in North America.
“The river had a cultural significance to us because it was a gathering spot,” he said of the Peace River.
“What we have said right from the beginning is that we’re not opposed to the creation of energy,” Willson said.
He said alternative forms of power, including geothermal, solar and wind, have not been adequately explored.
“We’re fighting for the survival of who we are as a people and the Peace River Valley is a significant piece of that.”
British Columbia’s New Democrat government announced last December that it would back the completion of Site C though it would cost nearly $11 billion, up from an estimated $8.3 billion.
The NDP had been against the controversial project while in Opposition but said the province risked a credit downgrade and debt-servicing costs of up to $150 million annually if the project that started in 2015 was cancelled.
BC Hydro has said the Site C dam would flood 5,500 hectares of land, of which at least 3,800 hectares is agricultural. The project would also flood Indigenous heritage sites.