Monday, 16 December 2013

ALR land no impediment to Site C

By Cheryl Chan, The Province, Dec. 16, 2013

Agricultural land act won't apply if Site C dam gets green light, says B.C. government

The provincial government told B.C. Hydro it’ll ensure that the Agricultural Land Commission Act doesn’t apply to the 3,800 hectares of farmland needed for the proposed Site C dam should the proposal receive environmental approval. In a letter to B.C. Hydro chairman Stephen Bellringer, Energy Minister Bill Bennett said that considering there is already an independent public hearing process under way, the government doesn’t want the process “duplicated.”
Photograph by: Submitted , THE CANADIAN PRESS
The provincial government told B.C. Hydro it’ll ensure that the Agricultural Land Commission Act doesn’t apply to the 3,800 hectares of farmland needed for the proposed Site C dam should the proposal receive environmental approval.

In a letter to B.C. Hydro chairman Stephen Bellringer, Energy Minister Bill Bennett said that considering there is already an independent public hearing process under way, the government doesn’t want the process “duplicated.”

“Should the project receive approval in the environmental assessment process, the government will take appropriate action to ensure the requirements of the Agricultural Land Commission Act will not apply to any of the lands potentially affected by the project,” said Bennett in the undated letter, which was also sent to Agriculture Land Commission chairman Richard Bullock and stamped received by the commission on Dec. 11.

Critics say the letter shows the government is bypassing due process and public examination of the impact of the massive $7.9-billion hydroelectric dam, which would flood an 83-kilometre stretch of the Peace River from Fort St. John to upstream of Hudson’s Hope.

“People were aghast,” said Arthur Hadland, Peace River Regional District area C director. “This is interfering with what is supposed to be an independent tribunal.”

The province is able to remove land from the ALR if it’s in the “provincial interest” and with approval of cabinet. The removal would be the largest elimination of farmland from the reserve in its 40-year history, said Hadland.

A review panel headed by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency is holding hearings into the dam proposal in Peace communities until the end of January.

chchan@theprovince.com

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