Proposed Peace River Dams – Sites C & E











In 1971, the Peace River area had 761,107 acres of improved land in agricultural production, representing over 43% of the British Columbia total.  Of this total acreage, cereal grains and oilseed crops accounted for 560,000 acres and forage seed production for 100,000 acres.  The remaining acreage was used for forage production and improved pasture with some vegetable production in the Peace River Valley.

The Peace River Valley represents a unique area of agricultural production in relation to the rest of the region.  The majority of the soils have been developed on deposits of glacial melt waters and are generally classified as good arable land that are well suited to cultivation.  In addition to the soil resource, the area possesses a more favourable climate which allows production of a range of agricultural crops including vegetables.

The agricultural resource inventory in this study covered soils, crops, markets, climate and agricultural capability of land.  Interviews were held with primary producers, government representatives, and secondary agricultural industry personnel.  Projections were made for the potential agricultural development of the agricultural land base.

The land inventory included approximately 6,500 acres of islands and 57,600 acres of uplands adjacent to the lower Peace River and its tributaries.  This inventory included all land to elevation 1,510 and in locations to higher elevations and generally comprises all the arable land in the entire lowere Peace River Valley.

With the installation of the W.A.C. Bennett Dam, and the resulting flood control, many of the alluvial riverside terraces and the more accessible islands are being used for agriculture.  They are highly valued by vegetable producers because of their productivity and associated favourable soil moisture regime.  The total available acreage of lands with soil types having some potential for agricultural use is 48,200 acres.  Of primes interest to this study is the narrow band of land adjacent ot he Peace River that has relatively higher capability due to its unique climate in comparison to the Peace Region as a whole.

Under the Canada Land Inventory (CLI) system of classification climate is treated as the basic limitation for the production of agricultural crops.  The climate of the lower Peace River Valley is broadly designated as Class 1.  The acreages with lower climate capability comprise approximately 6,000 acres of the total 48,196 acres of potential agricultural lands inventoried in the entire trench.  Of this 6,000 acres, about 90% has a climate capability of Class 2 and are also valuable agricultural land.

The significance of Class 1 climate rating is important when appraising the agricultural potential of the lower Peace River Valley.  Class 1 climate allows the production of a wide range of vegetables and fruits with the key crop being sweet corn.  Production of forage crops and cereal grains is enhanced by a Class 1  climate with resulting higher yields than is possible on similar soils with lower climate ratings.  Areas with Class 1 climate are extremely limited in the Central and Northern area of British Columbia and are rarely found north of the Kamloops – Cache Creek – Lillooet areas.  The relatively large size of the Peace River Valley Class 1 climate area in conjunction with high capability soils makes this valley an important agricultural resource.


The lower Peace River Valley supports a wide range of agricultural activities including:  grain production, forage and pasturing (with or without associated beef production), forage feed production and vegetable production.  Riverside flats have water table levels that allow agricultural production without the need for irrigation.  Vegetable production is the prime use for these lowlands.

The following table outlines the range and size of the various agricultural activities to the 1,510 foot contour.  This information was collected through interviews with 32 producers and categorizes the majority of the agricultural activity adjacent to the present river channels.

Agricultural Activity No. of Producers No. of Acres
Vegetable Production 12 338
Forage Seed Production 1 50
Grain Production 13 2,606
Forage Production 9 1,247
Livestock 7

Vegetable production is a unique feature of the agriculture of this area compared to other areas of the north.  The favourable climate and soil types enable this area to support intensive market garden operations.  Commercial vegetable production began in the 1930’s, and has increased rapidly during recent years.

The majority of the vegetables are marketed in the Dawson Creek and Fort St. John areas with some shipments to population centers farther north.  Marketing is carried out in a direct basis by some farmers through the South Taylor Producer’s Co-op.  This co-operative was formed in 1965 and has grown from gross sales of $8,000.00 in 1966 to over $110,000.00 in 1975.  With the recent installation of storage and packing facilities, producers are now in a position to more effectively service their market.  Discussion with food wholesalers in the area revealed a support for the local products and opportunities for expanded production.


There are two potential sites in the lower Peace River, known as Site C and Site E.  Site C is located about 40 miles upstream from the Alberta border, and Site E about 2 miles upstream from the border.  B.C. Hydro studies indicate the possibility of a 900 Megawatt (1 Megawatt=1,000 Kilowatts or 1,000,000 Watts) development at Site C, with a reservoir elevation of 1,510 feet, and a 750 Megawatt development at Site E with reservoir elevation of 1,355 feet.  The maximum potential of the generating plant at the W.A.C. Bennett Dam is 2,730 Megawatts, and the Site 1 Dam (currently under construction) is expected to produce 700 Megawatts when in full porduction.


As of August 1976, Thurber Consultants Limited of Victoria have been engaged to conduct detailed studies of the Site C project impacts.  these studies are in the areas of fisheries, wildlife, and climatology (or physical environment) – which have been continuing throughout the winter – and agriculture, socio-economic impacts, land use planning, recreation, water quality and archeology, which are planned to comment in March 1977.  The above studies are planned to be completed by September, 1977.


the primary impact of the basic project on agricultural resources is the irrecoverable loss of 18,260 acres of land.

Secondary impacts would include the effect of higher water tables beyond the flooding land, the isolation of certain fields by the flooding of the majority of the land unit and the effect of slop instability upon more intensive farming operations along the shoreline.


The almost COMPLETE LOSS OF LAND SUITABLE FOR SPECIALIZED VEGETABLE PRODUCTION is the most important point in this analysis since it would eliminate the potential for specialized vegetable production and processing, and IS IRREPLACEBLE IN THE PEACE RIVER REGION.

Depending on assumptions regarding relative prices and discount rates, the present (1975) worth of lost agricultural revenues range from 12 to 28 million dollars for the 6,829 acres of potentially productive lands that would be flooded by Sites C (elevation 1,510 feet) and Site E (elevation 1,355 feet) reservoirs.


Local production does nave the effect of controlling retail margins by offering alternate points of sale.

A well-developed vegetable production industry offers employment and opportunities at the primary and secondary levels.  A significant fact in this employment is the opportunity for employing people who do not have advanced training or job skills.


Restriction of crop type: (eg: deep rooted perennials such as alfalfa do not tolerate high water table levels).

Restriction of machinery type: (eg: heavy tractors might have to be replaced by lighter, less efficient units).

the shortening of the growing season, since higher moisture soils “warm up” more slowing in the spring.

Flooding could result in small areas that are no longer economic to farm.  Flooding could cause the reduction of a farm unit to a size that is not economic, or disrupt operations through loss of access.  Local shoreline instability could have a significant effect on agricultural lands located above steep slopes and should receive further study.


In spring and early summer, convective clouds and local shower activity would be less probable over a cold reservoir than over vegetated land.  This influence would reverse in the fall and early winter until the freeze-up of the reservoir.  During this period the water would often be warmer than the surrounding air and upward transfer of heat and water vapour would occur.  Local increases in humidity, air temperatures and steam fog would be expected therefore in the fall and early winter.


  1. Specialized vegetable production includes the production of bean, cucumbers, sweet corn, etc.  Within the land inventoried in there are approximately 4,800 acres that has a potential for specialized vegetable production.
  2. Other vegetable production includes the production of potatoes, cabbage, rutabagas, etc.  There are nearly 20,000 acres that have a potential for production of these vegetables.
  3. Alfalfa seed could be grown on approximately 23,000 acres of land.
  4. Grain production is possible on over 31,000 acres.
  5. Improved pasture is an option for the entire area of cultivable land inventoried.
The projected costs and returns were based on information supplied by the B.C. Department of Agriculture, agriculture industry personnel, and through interviews with local farmers, including members of the South Taylor Producers Co-op.  The figures reflect the use of good farming practices and most recent technology available and the effect of a Class 1 climate on the productive capacity of the lands.
The net returns are: $365.00/acre, $540.00/acre, $240.00/acre, $95.00/acre, and $6.00 per acre for specialized vegetables, other vegetables, alfalfa seed, grain and pasture respectively.  (Please see the enclosed chart on these figures).
The  analysis indicates tha tin the next twenty years, an additional 600 acres of alluvial bottomland could be put into production of specialized vegetables, and some 700 acres of adjacent land into other vegetables.  This increase would cause an equivalent decrease in the acreage available for grain.


The most significant social impact associated with the Site C project would be the required relocation of people living in the river valley settlements.  Human settlements are scattered along most of the northern back of the Peace River between Site C and Site 1.  Residential subdivisions are restricted to the townsite of Hudson’s Hope and at Lynx Creek.  Farmsteads and rural dwellings are centered around Attachie, Farrell Creek, Bear Flat and Peace Valley Ranch.  These settlements are interconnected by Highway 29 and secondary access roads.  Approximately 85 families comprising 350 people would experience the effects of the Site C project due to flooding, access relocation or possible physical effects due to increased bank sloughing.

Short-term impacts on the social service system in Fort St. John and environs during and immediately after the construction phase of the project would include the anticipated influx of 540 temporary new families.  This would place increased demands on education, medical, law enforcement, social and recreational services, programs and staff.

It is estimated that a maximum of 450 local people would be employed directly on the Site C project.  Many of these people are probably already employed in the area, but in less remunerative positions.  Vacancies created by those leaving jobs to work on the dam could be filled by unemployed or under employed local people.  These direct and indirect employment benefits would be shore-term (4 to 5 year) since the operation of the dam would result in only about 25 direct jobs.


Both Site C and Site E would result in flooding of some roadways, as well as other transportation and communications disruptions.  Please refer to the included charts, marked Table 23 – 3 and Table 23 – 4 for particulars and estimated costs.


(Comments from Women’s Institute members compiling the report)

Recreation activities currently enjoyed:

  1. Private canoeing on the Peace River and its tributaries.
  2. Competitive canoe races in the Peace River.
  3. Gold panning on existing river channels.
  4. Peace Island Par, including picnic site and museum.
The above would be lost if the dams are constructed.  The committee cannot see any recreational amenities on a Site C or Site E reservoir that are not already offered by Williston Lake.


Moose:  Approximately 70 will be displaced, and as many as 300 could be prevented from using natural valley habitats that they visit at various times of the year.

Deer:  Since these animals do not depend on river habitats for winter survival, little influence is expected upon them.

Elk:  Approximately 40 head in the lower Peace River Valley, along the Moberly  River could be severely affected by the development though displacement, human disturbance and increased hunter access.

Aquatic Birds:  A substantial reduction of vegetation would be available during flooding, several years would be required before such growth would establish in shallow portions of the reservoir.

Beaver:  At least 50 beaver would be displaced and high mortality if predicted.

Fisheries:  The spawning and rearing habitats of rainbow trout, Dolly Varden char and other river species would be flooded.


The site of two historic fur-trade posts are located below elevation 1,510, within the Site C reservoir area.  Careful site surveys near the Moberly River have revealed the remains of Rocky Mountain Fort, considered by some to be one of the most important historical sites in thh Province.  It contains the remains of the oldest European settlement on mainland BC (circa 1798 – 1805) which was probably started by John Finlay.  At present the site is relatively undisturbed although river erosion is approaching two chimney features.  If this site contains both the old fort and later Hudson’s Bay and Northwest company occupations, then it is possible that all fur-trade forts along the Peace River have been located.

The other historic site is Rocky Mountain Portage House which was built on the flats opposite Hudson’s Hope by Simon Fraser and John Stuart in the fall of 1805.

Present surveys have located about 30 other archaeological sites near or below elevation 1,510 in the Site C reservoir area.  These sites consist primarily of aboriginal lithic materials, circular depressions, rock cairns, burned sandstone slabs, bones and other indications of early human occupations.


Before proceeding with construction of any hydroelectric power development, B.C. Hydro must obtain a Water License under the Provincial Water Act, as administered by the Comptroller of Water Rights.  The first step in this process is an application by B.C. Hydro to the Comptroller for a Water License for a specific development.  This follows a “decision in principle” by B.C. Hydro to have the project evaluated under that statute.  The Comptroller of Water Rights can, and no doubt would, hold public hearings to assist him in assessing the application, and in determining the conditions to attach to the Water License, if granted.  Allowing time for adequate public notice and objections to be filed, public hearings generally follow an application by about 6 months.

If Site C should be approved for development, it is unlikely that initial power would be required before late 1987, but could, if the Hat Creek thermal project is delayed or deferred, be required as early as 1984.  Should it become necessary to meet the 1984 in-service date, an application for a Water License would have to be made in early 1978 to permit sufficient time for the subsequent Water Licensing process and project construction, if a license is granted.

B.C. Hydro estimates that Site C dam and reservoir will only have a seventy year life span due to the banks falling in.

All material, excepting the section on Recreation, was taken from the following sources:

– British Columbia Hydro and Power Authority – Peace River Site C Status Report

– Thurber Report to B.C. Hydro, Chapters 10 and 21

– B. C. Hydro Public Information Bulletin, February 1977

TABLE 10-5


Agricultural Production Type

Cost and Returns

Specialized Vegetables

Other Vegetables

Alfalfa Seed


Improved Pasture

Production Costs $265.00 $255.00 $155.00 $80.00 $17.00
Cash Overhead $10.00 $5.00 $5.00 $5.00 $1.00
Packaging and Marketing $160.00 $500.00
Total Costs $435.00 $760.00 $160.00 $85.00 $18.00
Total Revenue $800.00* $1,300.00** $400.00*** $180.00**** $24.00*****
New Return $365.00 $540.00 $240.00 $95.00 $6.00

*Based on 800 dozen of sweet corn/acre $ $1.00 per dozen

**Based on 10 tonnes of potatoes/acre @ $130.00 per tonne

***Based on 400 pounds of alfalfa seed/acre @ $1.00 pe pound

****Based on 45 bushels of wheat/acre @ $4.00 per bushel

*****Based on 2 head/month @ $3.00 per head for 4 months

TABLE 23-3


Description of Works

Approximate Length

Estimated Cost


Lynx Creek 200 ft bridge + 900 ft approaches $500,000.00
Farrell Creek 300 ft bridge + 700 ft approaches $790,000.00
Halfway River 3,300 ft bridge $8,250,000.00
Cache Creek 1,600 ft bridge $4,000,000.00


Various points
Between M52 and 81 10 miles $2,150,000.00
Slope Protection 1 mile $100,000.00
Culverts $480,000.00
Telegraph line relocation and protective work to gas lines  $1,500,000.00
Sub Total $17,770,000.00
20% contingencies $3,554,000.00
Total Direct Cost $21,324,000.00

Information taken directly from the report by Thurber Consultants Limited, Victoria

TABLE 23-4


Description of Works

Approximate Length

Estimated Cost

BC Rail Bridge

Slope Protection 1 mile $150,000.00
Replacement for Trestle 1,350 ft $3,375,000.00

Highway 97 Bridge

Raising South end $500,000.00
North Approach stabilization $200,000.00
Alces River Bridge 900 ft $1,530,000.00


Secondary road near Alces River 1 mile $70,000.00
Telegraph line relocation and Protection of gas lines $1,500,000.00
raising Westcoast Pipeline crossing $500,000.00
altering transmission line crossing $580,000.00
Sub Total $8,405,000.00
20% Contingencies $1,687,000.00
Total Direct Cost $10,086,000.00

Taken directly from the Report by Thurber Consultants Limited, Victoria






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4 Responses to Proposed Peace River Dams – Sites C & E

  1. Bianca Giordanni says:

    Thank You (everyone) who worked on this report. This is amazing news and analysis. I am strongly opposed to Site C Dam, and I am tweeting and posting on Google+ to the world about this. I am aware that Site C Dam would be the 3rd dam on the beautiful amazing mighty Peace River. BC Hydro, the BC provincial government and the Canadian federal government need to wake up. It would be a crime to flood more extraordinary priceless irreplaceable land now. Site C and any other hydroelectric dam projects on the Peace River need to be stopped for ever. Keep the Peace River a River for ever — not a reservoir. I am so grateful that you have made this information accessible to the public. We must not allow anyone to flood anymore of this extraordinary priceless irreplaceable agricultural land. Let the world know this now and put an end to Site C Dam and any other environmentally disastrous projects in our amazing Peace River Valley. Keep the Peace River a River to infinity.

    #SaveThePeaceRiver #StopSiteCDam #GetStupid #RiverNotReservoir

    • Ron says:

      Then why not dam the Fraser instead. It’s a lot closer the major centers of consumption. Leave the Peace alone, it has been damaged too much already, affecting the whole watershed downstream, through Wood Buffalo National Park, and the Slave and Mackenzie Rivers.

      Dams are not Green. There is a big environmental price paid. Sure, the other sources of energy are not clean either, but there are so many effects of dams on the environment, some of which are no doubt not yet recognized. Do you want the Peace to end up like the Columbia? I don’t.

    • It’s a bit late on the timely commenting, this excellent article would have come out right when the scope of the site C project was sinking into me as lower mainland resident with some grasp of how hydrogeology and ecologies work and interact.

      The project is currently slated to come under a fat tracked targeted review by the BC Utilities Commission as promised by the new “NDGreen” coalition government, however it is my belief that if limited to purely economic factors that numbers that have not previously been publicly floated will start popping “out of the woodwork” without adequate time to analyze corespondent negative valuations, and the abomination dam will get a “green light” with little chance of further review.

      The search for more data to support (or refute) a theory that the Peace River Valley is a high latitude equivalent of a “hot spot” in terms of biodiversity is what led me to this site, I am just stopping to comment on the high quality of the research and presentation.

      (as well as the most excellent and entertaining irony of the comment that otherwise would mildly offend me due to it referring to the original source of the name of our nation, assuming of course that it is not just horrible spelling)

  2. concerned student says:

    I am a little dismayed in this report at the lack of acknowledgement to the impacts on Treaty 8 First Nations. Referring to important grave sites simply as bones leaves me unsettled. It talks of the historical significance as if the Indigenous People’s are long gone, of the past, not here and now who will be genuinely effected by this dam. Maybe this was done for lack of research or information, but I am sure that Indigenous women feel that acknowledgement of the impacts on their lands is real and important. If it is information you lack, there are many sources to fill in the gaps in this aspect of the report that I’m sure many people Indigenous and not would appreciate.

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