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The effect of the proposed Moran dam on agriculture within the middle Fraser region, British Columbia Hardwick, Walter Gordon

Abstract

In the search for energy many proposals have been made to harness the rivers of British Columbia, but the one for the Moran canyon on the Fraser River has the widest implications. A dam on this site, 800 feet high and 2400 feet wide, could produce initially 4 million horsepower of electricity at low cost. In addition it would hold the key to flood control on the Fraser River and to expansion of navigation, industrial location and agriculture. It would be located on part of the river believed by many to have considerable potential for future salmon runs. While each of these aspects of the dam is important when considered by its proponents, together they indicate a unique possibility of widening the economic base of the province. One aspect, the effect of the dam on agriculture, is the subject of this study. Moran Dam, it is believed, will affect agriculture in three major ways: (1) It will flood the Fraser Valley for a distance of 172 miles north of Moran to a maximum elevation of 1540 feet; (2) it will provide low cost hydro-electric power for use in pumping irrigation water and for rural electrification; (3) it will provide low cost energy which may act as a factor in the location of electrically-oriented industries, and in turn through an increased work force create larger markets for agricultural products. It is these influences on agriculture related to the land and people of British Columbia that concerns this thesis. To collect the necessary data four week-long trips were made to the agricultural areas of the Fraser Basin in the fall of 1957. Land-use was mapped and location of farms, ranches and significant landforms upon which agriculture could be undertaken were mapped. Later airphotos and maps were studied. The reasons for proposing the Moran Dam along with a comparison between this dam and others within the province were reviewed. Next followed a description of the landforms, climate, soils, vegetation and hydrology, the components of the Physical Geography. A consideration of the present value, location and nature of agricultural activity and the extent to which foodstuffs have been imported into the province was made. Another aspect studied was the human geography. As the Fraser River Basin was found too large to study as a whole a sub-regional breakdown was made within which the various aspects of the problem were discussed. The sub-regions were Lytton to Moran, Moran to Williams Lake River, Williams Lake River to Quesnel and the adjacent areas of the Thompson Valley, Chilcotin and Cariboo plateau. Flooding was found to be restricted because of the physical nature of the valley with its steep slopes rising from the river to a more or less continuous series of benches 100 to 800 feet above its present bed. Thus only about 3000 acres of arable land, now chiefly utilized for winter grazing would be flooded, while about 45,000 acres could be intensively cultivated with irrigation water pumped from the reservoir. If the adjacent regions were included, where flooding is not a factor, pumping plants utilizing low cost electrical energy could make available an additional 20,000 acres. Since British Columbia at present imports large quantities of foodstuffs, additional population expected to work in electrically-oriented industries would necessitate importation of even larger quantities of foodstuffs unless some of the 65,000 acres were developed. Many of these are in areas with a relatively long growing season, large accumulated temperatures and low precipitation. Soils are fertile and the prospects for the intensive cultivation of vegetables, fruits and forage crops, plus the establishment of "feed lot" type cattle operations, in place of extensive grazing of cattle, could be expected. The costs of expanding agriculture in this region, however, would have to be competitive with other areas where irrigation agriculture is undertaken. This expansion of agriculture, desirable to meet the growing deficit in foodstuffs within British Columbia, would be dependent on the advent of large scale pumping irrigation works contingent on the construction of Moran Dam. No other proposal has been made of comparable import to the diversification of the economic base of the province. The impact of the proposal on agriculture alone is impressive.

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