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Home: Canadian Construction News: British Columbia to Proceed with $8.5 Billion Site C Dam Project

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British Columbia to Proceed with $8.5 Billion Site C Dam Project

Written by; Chad Simco / TCCN Staff Writer
Added on: Wed Dec 17 2014

  


The government of British Columbia is moving forward with what is said to be a controversial $8.5 billion (CAD) construction project with the Site C hydroelectric dam located on the Peace River in the northeast of the province.

On Tuesday, British Columbia premier Christy Clark stated, "It was not an easy decision to come to. In order for our economy to grow, we need to ensure there is power."

Clark added that the Site C dam will bring reliable, clean and affordable power to the province.

Although the province of British Columbia leads in energy conservation in North America, premier Clark added it doesn't remove the need for new energy.

"It's going to benefit British Columbians for generations," she told a crowd that gathered in Victoria.

Bill Bennett, the Minister of Energy and Mines, stated that the decision to proceed with the dam project is what best for rate-payers and what is the best for British Columbians.

The Site C dam will be the third dam to be constructed on the Peace River, flooding approximately 5,550 hectacres of land over an eighty three kilometer patch of the valley. The project ranks as the most expensive public construction project to date.

Bennett added that he does not expect the First Nations to endorse the Site C project publicly, however he is optimistic benefit agreements could be negotiated and agreed upon. He added that the First Nations people and companies could see considerable profits from the project through construction contracts and the demand for jobs that would ensue.

Last fall of 2013, a few First Nations located in northeastern British Columbia had issued the provincial government an ultimatum, stating it must make a decision between the Site C dam project or to develop the liquefied natural gas industry. They cannot have both.

The location for the proposed Site C dam project is to be in the heart of the provinces natural gas fields, and this would be where drilling would occur and pipelines to BC's northwest would be built.

Recently the Treaty 8 Tribal Association in Fort St. John issued a letter to Bennett and Finance Minister Mike de Jong, stating that the First Nation is not totally convinced the Site C dam project is not the most economical alternative and it involves "unnecessary and unacceptable risks."

Additionally, the association sent a consultants report it commissioned which said there would be no need for new electricity resources in British Columbia until 2027 if other resource methods were used.

The project has been going through consultations and public reviews with the First Nations, stakeholders and communities since 2007.

The Crown Owned BC Hydro said that it had reached a major milestone recently when it received environmental certificates both provincially and federally, as long as more than 80 conditions are met before it proceeds.

Last spring the joint review panel report debating the project found that the dam would cause significant adverse effects on wildlife and the environment, as well as on farmers, aboriginals and other users of the Peace River valley.

The panel appointed by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Authority concluded in its 471 page report that the benefits are clear and the alternatives are few.

The panel did not give a concise yes or no answer, however they stated that British Columbia will require new energy and new capacity at some point. The dam on the Peace River would be low in greenhouse gas emissions and could provide a large amount of inexpensive power to the province, it said..

BC Hydro issued an environmental impact report last year which concluded a diverse range of wildlife species, including butterflies, bats, birds, and fish were destined to suffer habitat destruction from the Site C project, however the utility has plans to prevent and reduce harm to wildlife and ecosystem areas.

Among BC Hydro's measures to reduce the potential loss from the proposed dam project are slow turning turbines that will allow fish escapes, fish-free wetlands to allow for safer breeding for dragonflies and special protective crossings for amphibians.

Hydro had identified in its environmental impact statement what it called 22 valued components that are expected to undergo some level of change due to the project. They include tourism, outdoor recreation, transportation, agriculture, heritage resources, noise and vibration, air quality, and human health.

The environmental impact statement also forecasts the flooding of more than 5,000 hectares of land, of which at least 3,800 hectares is agricultural land. The project will also flood First Nations heritage sites and force up to 20 families, many life long ranchers, to move from the area.

  

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