This Was Our Valley: Stories of the Peace River Dams

Shirlee Smith Matheson and Earl K. Pollon (Detselig/Temeron Books). This award-winning book was released in a brand new edition with an update that details the ongoing effects of a mega project, in this case the monstrous W.A.C. Bennett Dam and its Williston Lake reservoir on the Peace River in northeastern British Columbia.


Shirlee Smith Matheson is the writer of award-winning
fiction and Non-fiction Canadian Adventure Books.

Co-authored with Earl K. Pollon, this book reveals the economic, social and environmental impact of a mega-project—the WAC Bennett Dam, then the world’s largest earth-filled dam, built in the 1960s to harness the power of the mighty Peace River. Readers will come to know the people and places now buried beneath 600 feet of water in the dam’s reservoir, known as Williston Lake.

The potential of Hudson’s Hope, the third oldest community in British Columbia, has been a recorded fact dating from the diary notes of Alexander Mackenzie and Simon Fraser. The book deals with the conflicts that arose when a particular area became valuable to the rest of the world. Pollon and Matheson, who know the area intimately, tell the story. The dam’s influence is carefully explored and well-documented as Pollon and Matheson resurrect the true stories that lie buried beneath the waters of Williston Lake.

The winner of the 1990 Alberta Nonfiction Award and finalist for the Roderick Haig Brown BC Book Prize.

BC Hydro is currently conducting hearings on the environmental and economic aspects of building a third dam on the Peace River, called “Site C”. Read This Was Our Valley to gain a definitive view of this plan, and of the inside story of the WAC Bennett and Peace Canyon dams already operating on the Peace River.

Temeron Books Inc. Calgary
This 2003 edition of this book has been completely reset and reprinted.
1-55050-244-0, 2003 7.25×9, pb; 331 pg; 86 bxw photos, New Suggested Retail Price $24.95

Order: through your local book store or contact author at email listed on this website.

Reviews:  “This book may be compared with that of James Wilson (People in the Way, UofT Press, 1973) in which he describes ‘the reality of the Columbia River project in relation to the people of the Arrow Lakes region’ of southeast BC. In This Was Our Valley, Pollon and Matheson seek to do the same thing with respect to the Peace River projects and the people of Hudson’s Hope and the upper Peace region. One difference is that Wilson wrote as an outsider looking in (he had been an employee of BC Hydro based in Vancouver), while Pollon and Matheson write as insiders looking out.” J.D. Chapman, B.C. Studies, #86, Summer 1990.

“This book is attractively produced and well-illustrated. It deserves to be in all collections of works on western Canadian science and history.” W.A.S. Sarjeant, Dept. of Geological Sciences, University of Saskatchewan, Geoscience Canada, p. 179, Vol. 18, #4, Dec./91

“I like this book and recommend it to anyone who is interested in reading about dam-building controversies. It’ll probably leave you dam mad.”

Anne Capune, Wilderness Alberta, Vol. 19, #4, 1989.

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4 Responses to This Was Our Valley: Stories of the Peace River Dams

  1. I suppose the dam provides a lot of electricity but that aside, I really liked the look of the Peace River before that monstrosity was erected on it.

  2. peace lover says:

    Of course Williston Lake and the dams are important tourist draws on the other side of the coin. I’ve been up there specificly to see them and took my relatives too. But how many dams can the Peace River support (site C would be the third, after all)? I have a lot of questions and am hoping this book can answer them.

  3. townspirit says:

    This Was Our Valley is available through the Spirit River Municipal Library as well.

  4. Pingback: The Irreplaceable Valley | Town Spirit

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