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Palaeontologists lament loss of BC's fossil heritage with Site C dam

A therapod print

TUMBLER RIDGE (NEWS1130) – The Peace River canyon is considered one of the top ten places in Canada for dinosaur tracks, but northern BC palaeontologists say the tracks and other signs of ancient life will be gone forever, once work begins on the Site C dam on the Peace River.

Lisa Buckley of the Peace Region Palaeontology Centre  believes the heritage of the province is not being dealt a fair hand.

“There are Triassic period marine fish and large reptile materials, so it’s not just dinosaur tracks that are exposed in the Peace Canyon area. This is a very under-studied part of BC’s fossil heritage.”

Experts in the field of identifying fossils are still shaking their heads at the loss of fossils and dinosaur tracks found back in the 1920s.

Shortly after their discovery, the findings were deemed a Provincial Heritage Resource, protected under legislation.

Buckley says when Peace Canyon Dam, the second dam on the river, was being built in the 1970s, excavation was conducted to remove as much of the fossils as possible, but she says that process is little more than a salvage operation, which reveals very little about the region, compared to having continual access to the prints and studying their surroundings.

The sites were then lost altogether when the dam flooded that part of the river valley.

She was hoping for a different outcome with the announcement of a third dam.

“Our facility had attempted to contact people at BC Hydro to try to set up a long-term project, in order to continue to protect BC’s fossil heritage, but we’ve been met with silence on that.”

Construction on the project is set to begin this summer. About 5,500 hectares of land and 83 kilometres of river valley will be flooded.