Ben Knight films the former Elwha Dam before its removal in a scene from DamNation.

Nation be dammed in awareness movie

Awareness film night presents a look at dams and attitudes toward them

On February 11th Awareness Film Night and the Sierra Club of B.C. will screen the film DamNation. This recently-released movie documents the change in the U.S. national attitude towards the damming of rivers from pride in big dams as engineering wonders to the growing awareness that the future is bound to the life and health of the rivers. Dams are coming down in the U.S. and rivers and their ecosystems are being restored to their natural states.

Not so in B.C. where the government has just approved construction of a new dam, the Site C dam on the Peace River, which will flood over 100 kms of prime farmland, sever the Yellowstone to Yukon wildlife corridor and flood First Nations Heritage Sites.

DamNation shows how far things have moved in the U.S. from the assumption 50 years ago that dams were always a power for the good. Diverse interests in that country are coming together to remove obsolete dams and find more cost-effective options to meet power, shipping, irrigation and other needs, while helping to restore rivers, preserve tribal customs, recover fish stocks, revitalize waterfronts, improve recreational opportunities and render watersheds more resilient to climate change. Some call it a movement, others call it a generational shift in values. DamNation documents both – and the undeniable momentum behind river restoration that has begun to take hold in the U.S.

In B.C. things seem to be moving in the opposite direction. After years of avoiding construction of another dam on the Peace River precisely because it would destroy all the things that our neighbours to the south are trying to recover from their dammed rivers, the provincial government has decided that building a dam and flooding the Peace Valley is now a “go”.  This despite the fact that the Joint Review Panel’s report released in May found that BC Hydro had failed to prove a need for the extra power, had not given due consideration to alternatives such as geothermal and energy conservation and that the damming of the Peace River would have significant adverse effects on wildlife and on First Nations.

The post screening talk and discussion will be lead by Ana Simeon, Peace Valley campaigner with the Sierra Club.  The evening will offer a chance to learn of the true costs of Site C as well as the positive alternatives, both economically and environmentally, to damming.

Showtime is at 7 p.m. at the EMCS theatre.  Admission is by donation. Note: this film will not be in the Awareness Film Night library after the screening, as it must be returned to the filmmaker.

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