Watson Slough has been granted a reprieve.
After pressure from the Peace River Regional District (PRRD), BC Hydro has agreed to hold off logging the Peace Valley wetland until closer to the filling of the Site C dam reservoir.
In an email, BC Hydro manager of communication and issues management Craig Fitzsimmons said contractors have developed a plan to preserve most of the wetland during Site C construction, which is set to run through 2024.
“While we’re not able to fully accommodate the PRRD’s request due to risks to the construction schedule, we have determined that approximately 10 per cent of the trees will be cleared at Watson Slough in early 2017, leaving approximately 90 per cent of the trees in place until the winter before reservoir filling,” he wrote. “This revised clearing plan for Watson Slough will retain the wetland and its use by wildlife for a longer period of time.”
The wetland is a habitat for birds, waterfowl and other animals. It was set to be logged this winter by crews realigning Highway 29 above the Site C reservoir.
Earlier this year, regional district directors asked BC Hydro to consider whether the wetland could be preserved until later in the construction schedule.
Ken Boon, a nearby landowner who has been expropriated for the Site C, said it’s still unclear what BC Hydro considers to be the boundaries of the slough.
Regardless, the PRRD has bought the wetland a few more years, he said.
“It only make sense,” he said. “I don’t know why they proposed to log that now in the first place. There was really no reason for logging the Watson Slough this year, or for many years.”
The slough once hosted pond hockey games between Peace Valley residents, Ross Peck wrote in a tongue-in-cheek letter to the editor challenging BC Hydro executives to a match to determine the wetland’s future.
Boon said a neighbour found an old hockey net in the bullrushes while exploring the slough on snowshoes this winter.
“(So) those hockey games did take place,” he said.
Site C is an $8.8 billion earthfill dam near Fort St. John. The project is controversial because it will flood 83 kilometres of river valley, including farmland and First Nations cultural sites.