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Here’s what Site C would flood if it were in Vancouver

Posted on 16 December 2014

One of the first things I learned in radio is not to use numbers, especially big ones. They’re too abstract for people to understand. For an example, visualize 1,000 rocks. Now visualize 100,000. Do you really have a sense of the difference between those two things?

So as we’re hearing the B.C. government is approving the Site C dam I’ve been trying to come up with ways to understand just how much land would be flooded if the project goes ahead. The number being used is “5,500 hectares of land over an 83-kilometre stretch of valley” but really, what does that look like?

To start with, I tried to figure out what 5,500 hectares is. First of all, it’s 55 km² but that’s just a different measure. So think of Stanley Park.  Walk all around it. That’s 4.05 km². So Site C is a bunch of Stanley Parks.

But that’s not quite the same, because the flooding won’t be a nice square park. This 55 km² is being stretched along 83 kilometers.  So that means the flooding will, on average be just over half a kilometer wide (roughly 660 odd meters).

How big is that? If you were to walk from Pacific Boulevard where it crosses Smithe over to  the Georgia Viaduct, that’s about 650 meters. Enough to cover BC Place and then some.

650 meters downtown van


Now stretch that along 83 kilometers. I went on Google Maps and started midway through Stanley Park and then did the closest thing I could to a straight line out of there. It took me through Burnaby, New Westminster, Surrey, Langley and right into Abbotsford.

83 km

So there’s your visualization: when Site C is built it will flood a piece of land larger than BC Place stretching from Stanley Park to Abbotsford.

I recognize that this is not exact- the river flooding will not be a straight line, and I wasn’t able to make an exact line on this. Also, the area being flooded isn’t a densely populated urban area, it’s largely farmland and wildlife.

But this, I think, gives a much better sense of what’s happening that just ‘5,500 hectares’.

Filed under: British Columbia

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