In the next decade, a 60-metre-high wall of compacted earth will stretch more than a kilometre across the main stem of the Peace River, causing the waters behind it to swell into a 93-square-kilometre artificial lake, drowning the best topsoil left in the BC north. The waters will swallow fifty islands and a valley that is home to farmers, ranchers, trappers and habitat to innumerable creatures big and small.
Over four days in late September 2015, Christopher Pollon paddled the 83-kilometre section of the river that will be destroyed by the Site C dam reservoir, accompanied by photojournalist Ben Nelms. Their goal was to witness the very first steps of construction for the almost $8.8-billion project (the most expensive infrastructure project in BC history). They concluded their trip by touring the same stretch by land, interviewing and photographing the locals who stand to lose everything.
Equal parts travel adventure, history and journalistic exploration, The Peace in Peril is a story about the dubious trade-off of hydro power for resources like timber and farmland, but also far more: the Peace valley has been a prosperous home to people for eleven thousand years. How will lives, human and otherwise, be erased or irrevocably altered when the next great flood rises up to engulf the Peace River valley?
About the authors
Christopher Pollon is a Vancouver-based independent journalist who reports on the politics of natural resources, focusing on energy, mines and oceans. His work has appeared in The Walrus, Reader's Digest, The Globe and Mail, National Geographic Books and many more publications. He has been a contributing editor at The Tyee since 2008.
Ben Nelms is a Vancouver freelance photojournalist whose work has appeared in The New York Times, Maclean's, The Globe and Mail, Sports Illustrated and Canadian Geographic. His portfolio can be viewed online at www.bennelms.ca.
- Long-listed, George Ryga Award for Social Awareness
- Short-listed, Roderick Haig-Brown Regional Prize
“This gorgeously photographed celebration of a pristine paradise that could soon be submerged under many meters of dam-directed water serves as an informative, nuanced introduction to the issues surrounding the controversial British Columbia Site C hydroelectric proposal, one that pits farmers, First Nations, conservationists, and other longtime residents of the region against the interests of distant corporate utilities. The book is both a travelogue chronicling a portage by two urbanites through the majestic Peace River Valley and a social, economic, and political history of the province’s long-time relationship with similar megaprojects. It documents a lifestyle that could disappear within a decade if this provincial infrastructure project (the costliest ever in B.C.) proceeds. It’s also a heartrending portrait of those who will be most affected, including water and land-based wildlife and humans already traumatized by similar projects in the region. Acknowledging that much of B.C.’s post-WWII prosperity came at a massive cost to the Peace River region with the construction of the massive W.A.C. Bennett dam, this work challenges readers to consider the tradeoffs that continue to be made in harnessing energy sources in rural areas to provide comfort for city dwellers wholly unconnected to the consequences of their lifestyles.”