2 FOOD SECURITY a (dam) priority

objectives our government has set through mandate letters to ministers and commitments to the people of BC during the election campaign,” Horgan said. The first of those objectives came straight from the mandate letter to agriculture minister Lana Popham, who was told to expand local food production. “Firstly, we’re going to announce a series of initiatives starting with a food security fund to ensure that we’re increasing the productivity of our agricultural land and making it more viable to farm not just in the Peace but right across British Columbia,” Horgan said. The program will be funded by a budget that won’t have to swallow an immediate $4 billion hit from the project’s cancellation, a move that showed greater restraint than when the BC Liberals nixed the HST in 2012. The sales tax reversal triggered what was seen at the time as massive $1.6 billion repayment to Ottawa. Site C will cost close to $11 billion, but the cost will be




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spread over the long-term, and power sales will generate revenue in the interim.

Critics vow to fight Yet critics of the project

shared the premier’s disappointment with the decision and vowed to continue fighting a project that seems poised for years of delays. “We’re not throwing in the

towel. I don’t know what we’re going to do, ultimately, but I do know that people are going to be pushing back on this in various ways,” Bear Flat landowner Ken Boon told Country Life in BC shortly after Horgan’s announcement. Boon and his wife Arlene

live in her grandfather’s house and are now tenant farmers of BC Hydro on property they used to own. Boon didn’t see how the province could proceed with the project after a damning BC Utilities Commission hearing this past fall.

The hearing fulfilled a

campaign promise the BC NDP made during the provincial election last year, reflecting widespread concerns over a project many said is neither needed nor in the province’s best interests. “We went through this BC

Utilities Commission review process in good faith, and we put a lot of money and time and resources into it because we believed in it. We were basically told by the government, ‘Believe in this process,’ and we did,” Boon said. “What we’ve seen this afternoon is basically the NDP ignoring what came out of that process.” Boon says bluntly, “Horgan made the wrong call.” What comes next is the

slow working out of details of

the expropriation as well as addressing issues ranging from First Nations sites in the path of the new highway alignment. Geotechnical issues are another concern, though the province says the majority have been discovered. Ted Hanman, a partner in

the Victoria law firm of Cox Taylor and a director of the BC Expropriation Association who represents the Boons and eight other landowners in Bear Flat, said BC Hydro has agreed to give his clients an extra year to negotiate a final settlement. “Normally, under the

Expropriation Act, you’re expected to commence an action within one year of the date of the advance payment,” explains Hanman. “They have another year to commence an action, and it’s pretty obvious that unless they come to a negotiated settlement in the next year as to the totality of compensation payable, there would be an action commenced.”

Should this happen,

property owners would need to secure independent appraisals, determine the farming impacts and commission agrologists’ reports regarding the capabilities of their properties. “Hydro, of course, would

dearly love to come to a settlement,” says Hanman. Property owners aren’t the only ones BC Hydro could see in court. While federal Supreme

Court justices dismissed a First Nations challenge of Site C in January 2017, leaders of the West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations plan to launch a lawsuit alleging infringement of treaty rights.



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COUNTRY LIFE IN BC • JANUARY 2018 nfrom page 1

New year, new treaty Renegotiation of the

Columbia River Treaty will take place in 2018. While residents of the

Peace River continue to discuss the potential effects of Site C, efforts to update the Columbia River Treaty will focus on what’s been learned in more than 50 years of international co-operation. While the treaty has no end date, the US and Canada are exercising their right to renegotiate the terms of an agreement that has increased power generating capacity along the river and improved flood control. BC receives $200 million to $300 million annually from power sales as a result of the agreement while the US enjoys a more stable flow of water that irrigates farmland in eastern Washington and avoids a repeat of the devastating floods of 1948. BC would like to

FEE extension

maintain the treaty but seek improvements, including increased compensation to fruit and vegetable growers in view of irrigation benefits farmers in the mid- Columbia region enjoy. Congressmen from Oregon and Washington think payments to BC are too high, however. Meanwhile, US tribes

and environmental groups want to see salmon runs restored on the river, which would require changes to existing flood control systems. Whatever the outcome of the negotiations, the ripple effects will likely flow north to the Peace, where BC has promised to mitigate the effects on farmers and others affected by a dam that – like those on the Columbia River – faces intense criticism from Indigenous groups and conservationists. —Peter Mitham

nfrom page 1

order to encourage applications. However, so few applications were received and even fewer licences issued that fees were waived until December 31, 2017. (Charges for water use have been accruing since licensing provisions came into effect in 2016.) The latest extension effectively means that no fees will apply to users until after the deadline for obtaining a groundwater licence passes. Ranchers and other producers were pushing for a delay because of the onerous and confusing nature of the application process. Boon says the latest waiver amounts to a discount on a process that isn’t working as advertised. “We just felt it wasn’t fair that they continued with that

process of charging fees due to those difficulties,” he says. “The process has certainly been flawed, and I think they still have a lot of work to do to fix that, but giving it a little more time for people to be able to understand it and get through the process is really important.” BC Ministry of Environment reports that 1,614 groundwater licence applications were received through December 10, and 98 licences issued. This is up from 1,524 applications a month earlier and 97 issued licences. With one additional licence issued in four weeks, Boon

shakes his head. The bottleneck doesn’t appear to be with the environment ministry, he says, but rather FrontCounter BC, which processes applications. “It’s been a severe disappointment to us,” says Boon, noting that no one has ever satisfactorily explained what’s going on. “It may be one of the mysteries we’ll just never know,” he says.

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