Peace River

Site C Dam Late for Key Milestones Under BC Liberals, Report Reveals

Site C dam construction

B.C. Premier Christy Clark made headlines last month when she claimed that even a few months delay in evicting two Peace Valley families from their homes could add $600 million to the Site C dam project tab.

When Premier designate John Horgan asked BC Hydro to hold off forcing families from their homes this coming week as scheduled, Clark wrote to Horgan that “…with a project of this size and scale, keeping to a tight schedule is critical to delivering a completed project on time and on budget.”

But now BC Hydro’s latest Site C report reveals that — well before May’s provincial election and Clark’s headline-grabbing claims — the hydro project was already late meeting three out of eight “key milestones” for 2017 and was at risk of being late for three more.

It begs the question: was Clark trying to deflect blame for Site C construction delays and potential cost overruns onto the soon-to-be NDP government?

BC Hydro Let Off Hook for $400,000 Site C Dam Fine … Again

Site C dam construction

Sandbags, bales of weed-free straw, crushed gravel and silt fencing are among the extra supplies BC Hydro has stockpiled at the Site C dam construction site to avoid federal fines.

In early January the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency issued BC Hydro with a Notice of Intent to Issue an Order after inspectors found that “no erosion and sediment contingency supplies” were to be found at three sites.

The agency also noted BC Hydro could face fines of up to $400,000 for not meeting the conditions set out in its environmental certificate. 

It’s not the first time BC Hydro has been found in contravention of the law. In May, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency found BC Hydro had failed to measure air pollution and threatened BC Hydro with a $400,000 fine.

BC Hydro, in a Jan. 5 letter to the Environmental Assessment Agency, said all measures had been taken to restore the Site C project to a “state of conformity,” and, after studying photographs supplied by BC Hydro, the agency agreed that there was no need to issue the order, which could have resulted in hefty fines.

Inspectors find BC Hydro Violating Rules During Site C Construction

Site C Construction by Garth Lenz

Two enforcement orders released by the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office detail BC Hydro’s failure to comply with environmental protection rules during construction of the Site C dam.

The orders, issued to BC Hydro in late December and first reported by the Globe and Mail on Sunday, detail on-site inspections that found BC Hydro out of compliance with permit conditions related to the protection of drinking water and amphibian species.

One non-compliance order found BC Hydro failed to comply with two conditions outlined in Site C construction permits for the protection of amphibian species.

Condition 19 requires BC Hydro to “avoid and reduce injury and mortality to amphibians on roads adjacent to wetlands and other areas where amphibians are known to migrate across roads.”

A related condition, number 16, requires BC Hydro to conduct amphibian surveys at Portage Mountain to “identify specific mitigation structures and placement prior to road construction.”

However in late August, Alex McLean, a compliance inspector with the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office found BC Hydro had constructed an access road at Portage Mountain without conducting amphibian surveys or installing amphibian mitigation structures.

Unimpeded Rivers Crucial as Climate Changes: New Study

Flathead Basin

Gravel-bed rivers and their floodplains are the lifeblood of ecosystems and need to be allowed to run and flood unimpeded if species are to be protected and communities are to cope with climate change, a ground-breaking scientific study has found.

The broad valleys formed by rivers flowing from glaciated mountains, such as those found throughout B.C. and Alberta, are some of the most ecologically important habitats in North America, according to the team of scientists who have done the first extensive study of the full range of species that rely on gravel-bed rivers, ranging from microbes to bears. The paper was published online Friday in Science Advances.

In the region that stretches from Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming to the northern Yukon, gravel-bed river flood plains support more than half the plant life. About 70 per cent of the area’s bird species use the floodplain, while deer, elk, caribou, wolves and grizzly bears use the plains for food, habitat and as important migration corridors.

While everyone knows that fish rely on rivers, the scientists found that species such as cottonwood trees need the river flood to reproduce and the ever-changing landscape of changing channels and shifting gravel and rocks supports a complex food web.

Toxic Landslides Polluting Peace River Raise Alarms About Fracking, Site C

Toxic heavy metals, including arsenic, barium, cadmium, lithium and lead, are flowing unchecked into the Peace River following a series of unusual landslides that may be linked to B.C's natural gas industry fracking operations.

The landslides began nearly two years ago and show no sign of stopping. So far, they have killed all fish along several kilometres of Brenot and Lynx creeks just downstream from the community of Hudson’s Hope.

Tweet: Plumes of muddy water laced with contaminants pulse into #PeaceRiver http://bit.ly/1PhGs1n @maryforbc #bcpoli #cdnpoli #SiteCAs plumes of muddy water laced with contaminants pulse into the Peace River, scientists and local residents are struggling to understand what caused the landslides and why they have not ceased.

Hudson’s Hope mayor Gwen Johansson is also worried about a broader question raised by the ongoing pollution. The toxic metals are entering the Peace River in a zone slated to be flooded by the Site C dam. That zone could experience nearly 4,000 landslides should the dam be built and the impounded waters begin to rise in the landslide-prone area.

BC Hydro's Bizarre, Multi-Million Dollar Boondoggle to Save Fish from Site C Dam

In a scenario that sounds like something out of a Dr. Seuss book, bull trout and other fish will travel in trucks past the Site C dam for 100 years as part of BC Hydro’s strategy to save the threatened fish species from disappearing from the Peace River.
 
The public hydro provider, which is in the early stages of building the $8.8 billion dam, declined to discuss its fish-saving plans. However, a review of reports filed by the Crown corporation reveals an elaborate and expensive plan that may not work, according to a U.S. fish biologist with bull trout expertise.
 
According to BC Hydro reports, British Columbians will pay approximately $25.5 million to build a “trap and haul” facility for Peace River fish and will spend an additional $1.5 million a year to maintain the facility. The plans are contained in information BC Hydro filed with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.

Site C Dam Permits Quietly Issued During Federal Election

Construction on the Site C dam on the Peace River

Former prime minister Stephen Harper’s government issued 14 permits for work on the $9 billion Site C dam during the writ period of the last election — a move that was offside according to people familiar with the project and the workings of the federal government.

“By convention, only routine matters are dealt with after the writ is dropped,” said Harry Swain, the chair of the Joint Review Panel that reviewed the Site C dam. “Permits and licences are only issued when a government considers the matter to be non-controversial and of no great public importance.”

Swain served for 22 years in the federal government, ending as deputy minister of Indian and Northern Affairs and later Industry. In an exclusive interview with DeSmog Canada last year, Swain said the B.C. government shouldn’t have moved ahead with construction on the dam until the demand case became clearer.

BC Hydro Injunction Against Site C Dam Encampment 'Fundamentally Flawed': Former CEO Marc Eliesen

Former BC Hydro CEO Marc Eliesen says BC Hydro’s claim that a one-year delay in Site C dam construction will add $420 million to the project’s $8.8 billion cost is “effectively illusionary” and based on “fundamentally flawed” analysis.
 
Eliesen made the statement in an affidavit filed February 16 in the B.C. Supreme Court, in response to BC Hydro’s application for an injunction to remove Peace Valley farmers and First Nations members from a camp they have occupied since New Year’s Eve.

The application, to be heard February 22, seeks to prohibit anyone from physically interfering with Site C work or counseling others to do the same. If the application is approved, campers who remain at the site will risk arrest.
 
The peaceful camp, at the Rocky Mountain Fort site on the Peace River’s south bank, has prevented clearcut logging of the surrounding old-growth forest in preparation for Site C flooding. Court documents filed by BC Hydro say the area around the fort site must be cleared immediately because it is slated for a “potentially acid-generating” waste rock dump. The documents note that a berm will be constructed to prevent waste from entering the Peace River.
 
In his affidavit, Eliesen, who has also headed Ontario Hydro and the Manitoba Energy Authority, says BC Hydro’s testimony in support of the injunction application “fails to provide the proper and comprehensive historical context of BC Hydro’s determinations regarding this project” and is “without merit.”

Area to be Flooded By Site C Dam Was Once Recommended as Provincial Park

By Tim Burkhart, former researcher with the Cohen Commission and Peace River Break Coordinator with the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative.

Braving freezing temperatures and risking arrest, an alliance of First Nations members and local landowners have camped out on the site of the first European settlement in British Columbia to protect the Peace River from destructive land clearing for the Site C dam.

While the camp has rightfully earned significant media attention, few outside the region are aware that it’s located in an area so high in ecological values that the B.C. government recognizes it as worthy of Provincial Park status, and designates it as an Old Growth Management Area.

Travelling downstream along the Peace River from Hudson’s Hope to the site of the camp at historic Rocky Mountain Fort is a voyage through a rare landscape of natural heritage and wild beauty that needs to be protected for all British Columbians to enjoy.

Ever Wondered Why Site C Rhymes With LNG?

On January 20, BC Hydro issued a press release singing the praises of a new hydro transmission line not far from where preliminary work has begun to build the $9-billion Site C dam.

The release, headlined “New transmission line to power development in the south Peace,” featured boosterish quotes from Premier Christy Clark, Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett and BC Hydro CEO and president Jessica MacDonald, but made no mention of the dam.

Yet it highlighted for many one of the most vexing questions about why the dam, which is the single-most expensive megaproject in the province’s history, is being built at all: Why this project at this time?

“This line doubles the amount of power we can provide to the region,” enthused MacDonald. “We know it’s a growing region and BC Hydro needs to be one step ahead and ensure we can get power to where it is needed most. We want industry in B.C. to use clean power that comes from BC Hydro’s hydroelectric facilities.”

What MacDonald didn’t say, and Clark and Bennett did nothing to elaborate on either, is that the $300-million and counting transmission line is but the first of at least three in the region. Another two lines, which the provincial government wants exempt from review by the provincial electrical utilities regulator the BC Utilities Commission (the province also exempted the Site C dam project from similar review), will add hundreds of millions of dollars more to the tally for taxpayers.

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