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Wilderness Committee vs. Public Power?

April 27, 2010

Well there’s certainly been plenty of reaction to last week’s Site C announcement; the guys in the BCCGE mail room are still sifting through it all.  But they’ve already spotted something that could prove interesting in a Godzilla meets Mothra kind of way.

Predictably, the Wilderness Committee denounced the Site C project right away and stated in a press release: “Big dams have enormous environmental footprints.”  

Wilderness Committee Policy Director, Gwen Barlee, then went on to state: “It makes no sense from an environmental or economic perspective. It’s going to take a massive public backlash to stop this terrible project….”

But in sharp contrast, Marjorie Griffin Cohen from Melissa Davis’s “Public Power” group came out in support of the project in an opinion-editorial printed in last Saturday’s Vancouver Sun.

Cohen’s endorsement of the Site C project isn’t really much of a surprise considering the close ties between the “Public Power” group and the COPE 378 union that represents BC Hydro’s public sector workers.  A public sector project like Site C is obviously right up COPE 378’s alley.  How could they not be salivating over it. 

So there would appear to be an emerging point of potential tension between these two groups (see Godzilla meets Mothra above), and you have to wonder if it could get ugly as in fire-breathing, building-smashing ugly: one group calling Site C a “terrible project” with an “enormous environmental footprint” and the other spewing convoluted rationalizations to demonstrate that a public sector mega dam with a storage reservoir has less environmental impact than a run-of-river project.

There’s obviously plenty of points to critique and holes to poke at in Cohen’s opinion-editorial, but we’ll save that for another posting.   However, there is one particularly mind-bending bit of illogic in Cohen’s dissertation that sent the guys in the BCCGE mail room into whopper mode.

Here’s the mind bender: In singing the praises of mega dams, Cohen anoints mega dams with saintly healing powers that allows them to rebuild rivers after they’ve been dammed.   But Cohen denies these same healing powers to run-of-river projects, even though run-of-river projects actually have far less impact on rivers and river systems than mega dams do. 

We certainly don’t dispute that natural systems are adaptable and resilient to change — the Earth has been dealing with change for 4.5 billion years.  

But you can’t have it both ways, Marjorie!  

What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, and if rivers can rebuild themselves and establish new states of equilibrium following the construction of a mega dam project then the same must apply to run-of-river projects — and even more so considering their much smaller footprint and overall impact. 

The guys in the BCCGE mail room will continue to pour over the mail on Site C and ponder great mysteries like those above, but one thing’s for sure: Marjorie Griffin Cohen can bob and weave and toss up feeble rationalizations all she wants but she can’t disguise her true agenda — one shared by COPE 378 — which is to further the self-serving notion that anything public sector is good and anything private sector is bad.

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