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When you’re a common scold as I am it’s  too easy to lose sight of the main message when the cause expands to include so many issues. I have, I fear, been so afflicted and have unwittingly passed the problem on to you.

When I joined Save Our Rivers Society in May of 2008 I did so because rivers like the Pitt were about to be assassinated by greedy speculators and prospectors whose rewards from the victim’s remains were unconscionable. As with so many things in life, every newly overturned stone revealed yet another nasty crawly thing.

Now don’t get me wrong – these other issues are extremely important. The slow but certain strangulation of BC Hydro is of immense importance. Forced to forgo making new electricity and compelled to sign extravagantly rich deals with private power companies, there is no way BC Hydro can continue in business for long. No company can buy product for 2 to 3 times what they can sell it for can last.

I believe that I would be wrong not to point out to fellow British Columbians what BC Hydro has meant to us all – cheap, available power  and since the environmental sacrifices of the 60s and 70s, truly green power. I would not be doing my job if I didn’t tell people that while BC Hydro has, hitherto been able to place 100s of millions of dollars into the public treasury every year, that because they must now pay the contract prices extorted out of them, with Campbell’s blessing, indeed help, that dividend will no longer be there.

Could I have dealt with this issue properly without noting that the majority of private power will not be used for us in BC but sold into the US market by BC Hydro at a huge loss? Could I have avoided telling people that when Campbell & Co told us that  we are net importers of power, and that the proposed private power would make us self sufficient by 2016 that they were lying through their teeth? Wasn’t it my job to show how Campbell selectively used BC Hydro statistics to show BC as net importers when the real story from the National Energy Board and StatsCan showed that when you include all producers we are a net exporter?

Wouldn’t I have been negligent indeed not to point out that by BC Hydro’s own figures backed by independent experts show that  British Columbia can with conservation, updated generators, new generators especially on flood control dams and taking back, as we’re entitled to do under the Columbia River Treaty, power we now export, be self sufficient for as far as the eye can see?

Didn’t it need to be said that the environmental assessment process is a farce. Wasn’t it apropos to point out that we the people have been denied all power to express our opinions on the “merits” of these projects?

And wasn’t it essential to point out that in spite of what independent power producers would like us to believe, the gas fired Burrard Thermal Plant is there for backup only and used but a few days a year?

Well, I leave you to be my judge as I humbly plead for mercy and confess that I have been overlooking the main issue – the one that got me involved in the first place – namely the assassination of our rivers by large corporations, aided and abetted by the Campbell government, for immense profits. I make this confession because it’s clear to me that even if everything I have argued as above or more were untrue, the case against private power busting up our rivers would be enough to stop it all and set aside the catastrophic Campbell energy plan.

Let’s take a look at what is proposed by the 125 MW Glacier/Howser hydro project, proposed for an area next to the Duncan Reservoir in the West Kootenay, and which includes the diversion of water from 5 rivers; drilling of 16 km of tunnel into a mountain; a proposed 91.5 kilometre long transmission line across the Purcell Mountains. They don’t even bother to put the water back into the stream beds but dump it into Duncan Lake.

The impact of this entire project on wildlife bodes to be horrendous. Certain to be adversely affected if not wiped out are the Bull Trout. This is a char indigenous to western North America, which has virtually vanished in Alberta, has been wiped out by development in California and is threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Healthy populations of Bull Trout are found in both Glacier and Howser Creeks.

This in a Ministry of Environment publication, “Rare Freshwater Fish of B.C.,” Bull Trout are described as “an indicator species of ecosystem health (like the canary in the mine- my note) as they are extremely sensitive to habitat degradation”. They have interesting spawning habits often choosing fairly fast moving water and can be found in very high gradient areas –up to 30%. One would have to be terminally naïve to think these fish could survive this project.

Now let’s look at the BIG ONE, Plutonic/General Electric’s proposal for stunningly beautiful Bute Inlet.

This project dams and diverts 17 rivers that drain into Bute Inlet.This is not a single development though that’s what Plutonic calls it – in fact it’s three distinct “clusters” of hydro projects, generating a total capacity of 1027 megawatts (MW). Plutonic has been able to get this reviewed as a single project despite the obvious fact that it is not.

The size of this project takes the breath away. At its maximum production of 1027 MW its generating capacity is greater than that of the massive Site C project proposal. Because it can only produce a few months a year its total yearly production would be less than half that of Site “C” while it’s environmental footprint is much greater. We’re looking at ruining 17 rivers, the building of 443 km of new transmission line, 267 km of permanent roads, and 142 bridges, to be built in one of the most beautiful and sensitive areas in our province.

This area is a wilderness refuge for many species that were once common all over the coast.  The area holds all species of wild Pacific salmon, including winter and summer-run steelhead; there are also significant populations of resident rainbow, resident and sea run Cuttroat, Dolly Varden and Bull Trout. (Dolly Varden and Bull Trout, both chars, were for a long time considered to be the same fish but they are not).

Nomenclature for “trout” is confusing. The only “true trout” are Brown Trout and Atlantic Salmon, neither of which are native to these waters, which carry the prefix salmo. Pacific Salmon (Oncorhynchus) are cousins and now include Rainbow and Cutthroat “trout”. Then there’s another branch of cousins, the Char (Salvelinus), which includes Brook Trout, Lake Trout, Dolly Varden and Bull Trout).

I have allowed the forgoing to divert my attention from the assassination of our rivers and streams.

Is “assassination” too strong a word?

Well, people in board rooms are carefully and secretly plotting the death of our precious rivers, the life within them and the ecology of which they are the central part. Far from accidental, these murders are premeditated. Merriam Webster defines to assassinate as “to murder … by sudden or secret attack often for political reasons”.

Seems the right word for me but even if it isn’t, whatever it is must be stopped not only for the consequences I’ve reported but because killing our rivers cannot be tolerated by any society for any reason. This is more than an economic matter – it is spiritual. We define ourselves and are defined to the world by our wilderness and the bounties they contain.

We cannot, on our watch, let this insane unto criminal assassination destroy that which we hold in trust.

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