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, Amnesty International, the David Suzuki Foundation and the Royal Society of Canada called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to halt construction permits until the court cases have been heard — but the Trudeau government issued permits allowing construction to move ahead on July 27, 2016.
DeSmog Canada's latest news coverage on the Site C Dam
Talk about the government fox guarding the hen house. BC Hydro has applied to the provincial government for a new license that will allow it to demolish Peace Valley protected old-growth forest, migratory bird habitat and a rare wetland for the Site C dam.
Next up on the Site C chopping block is 1,225 hectares of Crown land — an area larger than three Stanley Parks — that includes a spectacular and rare hillside wetland called a tufa seep. The seep likely took thousands of years to form, making it older than the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and the Great Wall of China.
Even if the government required BC Hydro to place a no-logging zone around the seep to protect its unique biodiversity values, it will be ultimately destroyed by the Site C reservoir. The seep is one of at least seven of the ancient wetlands that lie within the Site C project area, a concentration that botanist and lichenologist Curtis Bjork said is “unlike anything I’ve ever seen.”
Just two years ago only four in 10 British Columbians had even heard of the Site C dam. Now, the project — one of the most expensive and environmentally destructive in B.C.’s history — is making international headlines.
With construction ramping up, the high cost of the Site C dam is becoming more visible, and not just on the landscape.
Residents are being forcibly removed from their land. More than 100 kilometres of river valley — much of it agricultural land — is slated for flooding. Independent review processes, meant to ensure the project serves the public interest, have been circumvented and indigenous rights have been trampled.
B.C. Premier Christy Clark has vowed to get the $9 billion Site C dam past the “point of no return” before the May 2017 provincial election, despite a torrent of experts questioning the demand for the power.
Aided by permits issued by the Trudeau government, construction on the project is rushing ahead, while First Nations wait on a court ruling that could stop construction.
Thanks to donations from you, our readers, DeSmog Canada was able to send celebrated photographer, Garth Lenz, to the Peace to capture the ongoing construction and the landscapes and lives that stand to be affected by the Site C dam.
While the destruction may alarm some readers, it's worth noting that most of the work so far has been isolated to in and around the site of the proposed dam and more than 80 kilometres of river valley remains untouched at this stage.
As the cost of producing energy from wind and sun continues to drop, power produced by the Site C dam will be an increasingly bad bargain, according to leading U.S. energy economist Robert McCullough.
In a report comparing the cost of nuclear, hydro and natural gas energy with power produced by solar and land-based wind farms, McCullough concludes that renewables cost less than half the cost of hydro.
“While there would be costs associated with suspending or halting construction of Site C, I remain of the view that BC Hydro could save $112.74-million on an annual basis by instead building wind and solar. This amount could be higher if tax credits for renewable energy were considered,” McCullough wrote in a cover letter to Ken Boon, Peace Valley Landowner Association president.
Allowing wealthy corporations or powerful government agencies to launch baseless court cases against citizens who speak out against them is putting a chill on free expression in B.C. and there is a growing need for legislation against SLAPP suits, says the B.C. Civil Liberties Association.
It is time to fight back against Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP), which aim to intimidate and silence critics by landing them with the often-unmanageable cost of defending themselves against an unwarranted lawsuit, said Micheal Vonn, BCCLA policy director, who believes SLAPP suits are undermining B.C.’s democratic health.
BCCLA is aiming to put pressure on the provincial government to bring in anti-SLAPP legislation, similar to changes introduced last year in Ontario, to help those threatened with legal action to defend themselves against those with powerful financial interests and deep pockets.
Fifty-five years ago, construction crews started one of the tallest earth dams in the world 22 kilometres west of Hudson’s Hope, B.C. It was to flood a valley shaped by the Parsnip and Finlay Rivers.
This secluded paradise had been home to the Tsay Keh Dene for millennia. It was where they derived their livelihoods, established their identity, honoured their ancestors and envisioned their future. The band was not consulted about the project. No plans were drawn up to help them move ancestors to new burial sites or establish a new village.
W.A.C. Bennett, B.C.’s premier at the time, was consumed with his “two rivers” plan, developing hydro power both on the Upper Columbia and the Peace rivers.
Christy Clark doesn’t like Victoria. At least, she said as much in an interview with the National Post: “I try never to go over there. Because it’s sick. It’s a sick culture. All they can think about is government…”
Maybe that’s why Clark pulled the plug on this fall’s legislative session. As a bonus, that means her political opponents won’t get the opportunity to ask her any questions … well, not in the legislature at least.
Unfortunately for the powers that be, we rang up a few folks. Here are their top five questions for Clark.
Hydropower is usually touted as clean energy, but a new study has found man-made reservoirs are producing far more greenhouse gases than previously believed, with most of those emissions in the form of methane, a potent climate-warming gas.
“We weren’t super-surprised at the magnitude of the emissions, but one thing we were surprised to see is the per area rate of methane emissions. They are 25 per cent higher than previously thought,” Washington State University researcher Bridget Deemer, lead author of the study, published Wednesday in the journal BioScience, told DeSmog Canada.
Dear Will and Kate,
Welcome to beautiful British Columbia!
You are getting a pretty epic tour this week — from Victoria and Vancouver to Bella Bella (sorry about the rain) and Haida Gwaii. All of us watching the photo-ops are pretty jelly to be honest.
Here’s the thing though: I’ve noticed you’re hearing plenty of platitudes about “protecting the environment” from our good-looking leaders, B.C. Premier Christy Clark and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
I know you’re smart people, so I don’t want you to be fooled by their looks — or their words.
Don’t get me wrong: B.C. truly is a glorious place — the type of place you can fly over in a seaplane and easily think the wilderness will never end.
But it’s also one of the world’s last frontiers and the race is on to cut down our old-growth forests, to send more oil tankers into our ports, to build natural gas plants in our salmon estuaries and to flood our rivers for megadams.
Here are a few things I thought you ought to know about B.C. (and which I’m doubtful you’ll hear from Justin or Christy).
The 2016 finalists for the Canadian Online Publishing Awards have been announced and DeSmog Canada has made the cut in two categories — alongside Maclean’s Magazine, the Toronto Star, The Huffington Post, the Winnipeg Free Press and the National Observer.
In the Best Blog category, DeSmog Canada is nominated for its coverage of the indigenous youth suicide epidemic and its relationship to natural resource development.
Also featured in the nomination is DeSmog Canada’s coverage of the Mount Polley mine disaster and the provincial government’s failure to levy any charges or fines against the company responsible and our coverage of Canada’s enormous untapped geothermal energy potential.
In the Best Video Content category, Disturbing the Peace: The Story of the Site C Dam has been selected as a finalist.
A caravan of Treaty 8 First Nations fighting the Site C dam arrived in Ottawa Tuesday, calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to halt the $9-billion project they say violates treaty rights.
The group arrives on Parliament Hill after a cross-Canada journey that brought them to the Federal Court of Appeal in Montreal on Monday, where a legal challenge by the West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations was heard.
“Anyone who reads the environmental assessment report can see that the Site C dam is an indisputable threat to our rights,” Roland Willson, chief of the West Moberly First Nation, said.