The blockbuster Alaska Highway story starts in Dawson Creek (D.C). In response to the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Americans wanted to secure Alaska. With no road linking it to the other states, this was the time for the epic task of bulldozing the vast, rugged wilderness. Thousands of American and Canadian civilians and soldiers gathered in this community in northeast British Columbia (B.C.), then a population of 600. The town boomed overnight. After nine harsh months of building, the highway, stretching from Dawson Creek at ”Mile Zero” to Delta Junction in Alaska, was opened.
Today’s Dawson Creek continues to serve as a major hub and popular tourist spot. The surrounding area boasts spectacular scenery: forests, alpine meadows and the northern Rocky Mountains. Local historic attractions include Kiskatinaw Bridge and Pioneer Village. Culture buffs can enjoy an art gallery within a renovated grain elevator and the EnCana Events Centre. Depending on the season, you might see the northern lights or indulge in a Rotary Lake Polar Bear Swim. Dawson Creek Regional Airport makes getting there easy.
Proudly considered a model for the rest of Canada, Dawson Creek has innovative initiatives in sustainability: B.C.’s first wind park, solar panels for municipal buildings and local lighting, and Project Blue Sky that tackles climate change.
Their strong economy is based on agriculture and some of the largest oil and gas reserves in the country. With lots of wind, sunshine and geothermal potential, the area is a natural for renewable energy. Their Peace Energy Co-op was formed in 2002 to create renewable energy projects, beginning with a “visioning process” for citizens to develop the city as they wanted it to be.
Committed to reducing consumption of energy and resources, D.C. chooses lower-impact energy sources that reduce greenhouse gases and have fewer negative impacts on the ecosystem. Heating water with solar energy emits fewer GHGs than natural gas would.
Having won a heap of awards in energy, community and sustainability, Dawson Creek was named one of the Top 5 Best BC Cities to invest in. They have proven economic growth, a high quality of life, a stable municipal tax rate, low property costs and progressive leadership.
Hydroelectricity –This area provides most of the electricity for the province. B.C. Hydro harnesses a third of its power through two generating stations on the Peace River: the largest is the G.M. Shrum station at the W.A.C. Bennett Dam, which generates more than 13 billion kWh annually. This dam is the largest electrical source in British Columbia and the controlling structure for the Williston Lake Reservoir, B.C.’s largest reservoir, which took a whopping five years to fill.
Oil & Gas –This hydrocarbonbearing area contains most of the gas, oil and crude bitumen in Canada, and is the only area in B.C. that is currently producing oil and gas on a commercial scale. EnCana Corp bought 500,000 net acres of land here in 2003 and estimates that over four trillion cubic feet of natural gas will be recovered from its site at Cutbank Ridge. Solar – Dawson Creek has developed innovative projects that include the installation of solar hotwater systems on municipal buildings, a photovoltaic system at City Hall and for street lighting, plus a partnership with local First Nations.
Wind – Bear Mountain’s 102-megawatt wind park is owned by Calgary’s AltaGas and was initiated by Peace Energy Co-op and Sidney B.C.’s Aeolis Wind Power. Wind turbines are aligned on an eight km ridge and offer Dawson Creek a stunning “skyline”.
Carbon Fund Policy –Supporting projects that save energy and fight climate change, this fund charges $100 every time the city generates a ton of carbon emissions from municipal buildings, vehicles or operations.
Reclaimed Water Plant-–To be built in partnership with Shell, this facility from a 10-year agreement will convert wastewater into reclaimed water that meets standards for industrial and municipal uses, such as watering fields and for use in the oil and gas sector. This will reduce the amount of fresh water Shell uses, easing the strain on local water sources and stopping the use of potable water for industrial purposes.
Mayor Mike Bernier sums up Dawson Creek’s winning trifecta of key energy projects, sustainability and lifestyle. “The city works with businesses and industries to ensure success is achieved, while being innovative and planning for the needs of future generations. Being recognized as one of the most progressive and sustainable communities in Canada shows that success can be achieved through a balanced approach to society’s needs.”
By Nancy Baye
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