Site C review panel changes mind, asks for ALC’s input on farmland
Read this Jan. 23 Globe and Mail story by Mark Hume on the Joint Review Panel for the proposed Site C Dam’s last-minute reversal of an earlier decision not to seek the input of BC’s Agricultural Land Commission on the impacts the project would have on farmland.
As The Common Sense Canadian reported last week, the Clark Government stripped the ALC of its regulatory oversight of what would constitute the single largest land withdrawal from the ALR in the Commission’s 40-year history.
The Joint Review Panel examining the Site C dam proposal has reversed an earlier decision and is now asking B.C.’s Agricultural Land Commission for input on a project that could drown thousands of hectares of farmland.
The last-minute decision, which comes just before public hearings end Thursday, was made despite a provincial government attempt to keep the ALC out of the process.
The Panel would appreciate if the Agricultural Land Commission would provide its written advice as to the process it would follow … were the project not excluded from the requirements of the Agricultural Land Commission Act,” Brian Wallace, counsel to the federal-provincial panel, said in a letter Monday to the directors of the ALC.
Mr. Wallace asked the ALC “to provide its advice as quickly as possible,” saying the public only has until Feb. 3 to make final written comment.
Colin Fry, executive director of the ALC replied by e-mail saying the matter will be discussed by the board this week.
The exchange between the two bodies came despite a letter Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett wrote in December, in which he sought to block ALC involvement in the Site C review.
“The province is aware that one of the issues at the [JRP] hearing will be the effect of the project on agricultural land, some of which is within the Agricultural Land Reserve,” Mr. Bennett stated in a letter to Stephen Bellringer, chair of BC Hydro, which was copied to Richard Bullock, ALC chair. “I am writing to inform you that the government’s current view is that this process should not be duplicated … under the Agricultural Land Commission Act.”
Under legislation, the ALC is supposed to review applications to remove land from the ALR. But Mr. Bennett’s letter was a clear signal that the ALC was not to assess the effect of the proposed dam on farmland in the Peace River Valley.