The time to discuss dam project is now

Placating the public this early in the process is not a useful way to stimulate the conservation.

A second meeting between Fortis Inc. and Similkameen political entities took place last Wednesday as local politicians sought information regarding the utility company’s Similkameen dam proposal.

Fortis officials insist there is “nothing new,” in these “early stage talks,” with “not a lot to say yet.”

However, last Wednesday’s meeting with members of the Similkameen Valley Planning Society took over an hour, and would have gone longer but for schedule restrictions.

True, a lot of discussion at this stage is conjecture – but SVPS Chair Manfred Bauer made a succinct point when he asked Fortis managers Bob Gibney and Joseph Sukhnandan what the conclusion of the company’s pre-feasibility report was.

“Was it positive?” he asked, (answering the question himself), “it must have been.”

Sukhnandan admitted the report helped fuel the decision to continue the study into the project, explaining the engineering report’s conclusions  and, ultimately the amount of power generation that can be produced will be what drives the project.

“Beyond 350 million dollars ( in construction cost) it would be difficult to do,” Sukhnandan said.

Granted, there has  been little physical work done on the project yet, but the mere fact that Fortis has concluded an environmental assessment is warranted – and has gone so far as to prescribe a timeline of construction – (which, by the way, would see the dam built before the end of this decade – not a long time by political standards) – is enough for us to say there is quite a bit to talk about, and the sooner the better.

The SVPS directors barely started that process last Wednesday.

The more residents know about this project, and the earlier they know about it, the better – before timelines become so tight, legitimate concerns can’t be properly addressed.

Placating the public this early in the process is not a useful way to stimulate the conservation.

As a matter of fact, it might be interesting to see that  pre-feasibility report – if only it was available to the public.