The Site C dam is a proposed 1,100 megawatt hydro dam on the Peace River in northeastern British Columbia, Canada.
Below you will find an overview section describing the Site C dam project and the controversy surrounding its construction, followed by our latest news and analysis on the subject.
(Photo credit: Don Hoffmann)
Overview of the Site C Dam Project
The Site C dam has been proposed since the 1970s and, if built, would be the third dam built on the Peace River. With a price tag of $8.8 billion, the Site C dam is the most expensive public project in B.C. history.
The B.C. government gave Site C the go-ahead in December 2014, but the dam is facing several court challenges from landowners and First Nations who oppose flooding 107 kilometres of the Peace River and its tributaries, putting valuable farmland under water.
The B.C. government has argued the dam is the most cost-effective way to meet the province’s electricity needs and has rejected repeated calls for an independent review of costs by the B.C. Utilities Commission.
Harry Swain, the chair of the joint federal-provincial panel that reviewed the Site C dam, panned the B.C. government’s actions on the dam in March 2015, in comments called “unprecedented” by environmental law experts.
Construction started on the dam in fall 2015 and B.C. Premier Christy Clark has vowed to get it past the “point of no return.” Protesters prevented logging at historic Rocky Mountain Fort for two months, but BC Hydro won an injunction against them in early March and the protesters removed their camp.
Four legal cases are still in the courts and questions about the need for the electricity remain. First Nations and community groups opposed to the dam are now calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to halt construction permits until the court cases have been heard.
DeSmog Canada's latest news coverage on the Site C Dam
Justin Trudeau and his cabinet must uphold their promise to respect First Nations rights when it comes to federal decision-making for the Site C dam, federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May told DeSmog Canada while visiting a portion of the Peace River that will be flooded should the $9-billion project proceed.
“To me this project represents the litmus test for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his entire cabinet in their central commitment to establish a nation to nation relationship built on respect for Canada’s Fist Nations,” May said during an interview for a new DeSmog Canada Site C video.
May and DeSmog Canada were in the Peace Valley for the annual Paddle for the Peace where hundreds of people representing local landowners, First Nations, and environmental organizations voiced their opposition to the Site C dam.
The Site C dam, advanced as the province’s showcase clean energy project by the B.C. government, will cause significant environmental damage without any significant climate benefit, according to a new report from the University of British Columbia.
Authored by Rick Hendriks from Camerado Energy Consulting, the report found Site C, a BC Hydro megadam proposed for the Peace River near Fort St. John, will not provide energy at a lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emission rate than other alternative energy projects.
“The government stated that the unprecedented level of significant adverse environmental effects from Site C are justifiable, in part, because the project delivers energy and capacity at lower GHG emissions than the available alternatives,” Hendriks, an energy consultant with more than 20 years experience analyzing large-scale hydropower projects, said.
“Our analysis indicates this is not the case.”
Comparing BC Hydro’s own data on Site C and alternative energy scenarios, the report found the megadam provides no substantial benefit over other renewable sources like wind and solar.
People have harnessed energy from moving water for thousands of years.
Greeks used various types of water wheels to grind grain in mills more than 2,000 years ago.
In the late 1800s, people figured out how to harness the power to produce electricity.
Throughout the 20th century and into the 21st, hydropower has expanded, producing about 17 per cent of the world’s electricity by 2014 and about 85 per cent of renewable energy — and it shows no signs of slowing.
According to the online magazine WaterWorld, “An expected 3,700 major dams may more than double the total electricity capacity of hydropower to 1,700 GW within the next two decades,” — including in my home province of B.C., where the government has started a third dam on the Peace River at Site C.
“Hydropower is the most important and widely used renewable source of energy,” the U.S. Geological Survey says.
But how “green” is hydropower and how viable is it in a warming world with increasing water fluctuations and shortages? To some extent, it depends on the type of facility.
In only its earliest phases of construction, the Site C dam project has already spent more money than projected and missed key benchmarks, threatening to undermine Premier Christy Clark’s commitment to taxpayers to keep the project on budget and on time.
BC Hydro documents filed June 10 with the province’s independent public utility watchdog, the B.C. Utilities Commission (BCUC), show that that Site C expenditures totalled $314 million more at the end of March than was originally budgeted for that date.
The same documents, reviewed by DeSmog, also flag the potential for cost overruns if interest rates climb, taxes increase or the Canadian dollar continues to depreciate over the projected eight remaining years the dam is under construction.
This is a guest piece by Adrian Dix, the MLA for Vancouver-Kingsway and the NDP critic for BC Hydro and ICBC.
BC Hydro and the provincial Liberal government are playing a reckless game with British Columbians. They are building the Site C dam even though it is apparent that we do not need the power.
The consequences will include lost jobs, higher electricity rates and long-term damage to BC Hydro and provincial finances.
Does Premier Christy Clark think BC Hydro's customers in this province would support a $9-billion-plus project to offer subsidized power to American and Albertan consumers? Could this ever make any sense?
B.C. has seen this story before with respect to Site C, but with a very different ending.
The B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO) granted BC Hydro several exemptions from the B.C. Wildlife Act to keep Site C dam construction from falling behind expected timelines, DeSmog Canada has learned.
The exemptions have some local First Nations and legal experts concerned Premier Christy Clark’s promise to “push the project past the point of no return” is occurring at the cost of B.C.’s own permitting rules and wildlife management.
“BC Hydro has gone rogue,” Chief Roland Willson of the West Moberly First Nation told DeSmog Canada. “Worse yet, the province is aware of the situation and chooses to look the other way. What’s the point of having a regulator if it refuses to regulate?”
E-mail correspondence obtained by DeSmog Canada show BC Hydro requested last-minute permission from the Ministry of Forests to undertake “emergency amphibian salvage” along the banks of the Peace River. The ministry granted BC Hydro several exemptions from the Wildlife Act to conduct the work — something legal experts say is against the law.
“I think we’re making a big mistake, a very expensive one,” Swain says in the video. “Of the $9 billion it will cost, at least $7 billion will never be returned. You and I as rate payers will end up paying $7 billion bucks for something we get nothing for.”
Since 2005, domestic demand for electricity in B.C. has been essentially flat, making it difficult to justify the dam which will flood 107 kilometres of the Peace River and destroy thousands of hectares of prime agricultural land.
“There is no need for Site C,” Swain says. “If there was a need, we could meet it with a variety of other renewable and smaller scale sources.”
Federal and provincial climate policies unveiled over the last year are paving the way for Canada to massively increase the amount of energy the country gets from renewable sources, according to a new analysis released today by Clean Energy Canada.
“For the first time the federal government and the provinces are working together to establish a national climate plan,” Dan Woynillowicz, policy director at Clean Energy Canada, said. “A big piece of the puzzle is not just cleaning up the grid, but electrifying other parts of the economy reliant on fossil fuels.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is drafting a ‘pan-Canadian clean growth and climate change framework’ to be released this fall. Meantime, last year Alberta and Saskatchewan, Canada’s main oil and gas producing provinces, set ambitious renewable energy targets. And Ontario recently announced one of the most cutting edge greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction plans in Canada to date.
All of that means things are finally looking up for clean energy in Canada. Federal and provincial politicians now need to make good on their climate pledges for the country to reap even bigger benefits from this $500 billion global industry.
Peace Valley farmers and outspoken critics of the Site C dam Ken and Arlene Boon say BC Hydro intends to force them from their third-generation family farm by the end of this year even though the dam would not flood their land until 2024.
The Boons received the unexpected news from their lawyer, following a conversation the lawyer had with officials from BC Hydro’s Properties division.
“It was a shocker,” Ken Boon, says. “We didn’t know they wanted us out by Christmas.”
Boon says if they refuse to sell their farm to BC Hydro it will be expropriated for the “re-alignment” of Highway 29 away from the Site C flood zone, a two-year construction project that BC Hydro says must begin in 2017.
In polling released by BC Hydro last week, the public power utility touts “broad” support for its controversial Site C dam — a mega hydro dam on the Peace River that would flood 107 kilometres of river valley, forcing farmers and First Nations off their land.
Hydro must have been counting on nobody taking a close look at the questions they asked respondents, because not only are they misleading, but they also tell another story entirely.
Let’s first address a glaring problem with the questions themselves: polling company Abacus Data began by asking British Columbians a multiple choice question about how to meet “increasing electricity demand.”
There’s just one problem: B.C. does not have increasing electricity demand. In fact, electricity demand in B.C. has remained basically flat since 2005. But no, the pollster told all 1,000 telephone respondents that electricity demand is rising and we must meet it somehow.