Site C

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.

Logging Crew Mobilizes Near 'Irreplaceable' Wetland, Slated for Site C Flooding

Watson Slough near the Site C dam

A “landmark” wetland and birding hotspot in the Peace River Valley is slated to be destroyed by the Site C dam, after the B.C. government preserved it as a model conservation project.  

The area around Watson Slough, which provides habitat for two dozen bird, plant and amphibian species vulnerable to extinction, is scheduled for imminent logging by BC Hydro contractors in preparation for flooding the area for Site C. Preparations are being made for logging crews and security had arrived at Bear Flat near Watson Slough Wednesday morning in prepration for clear-cutting the Bear Flat/Cache Creek area.

Peace region residents say logging the area around the slough this winter will prematurely rob them of a favourite outdoor spot, as treasured locally as Vancouver’s Stanley Park or Beacon Hill Park in Victoria. 

It’s discouraging,” Karen Goodings, a Peace River Regional District director, said in an interview. “Watson Slough is one of the landmarks of this area and I really believe it is irreplaceable.”

BC Hydro Shows Trump-Style Attacks on Media Can and Do Happen in Canada

When Donald Trump held his first news conference this month following his election as U.S. president, observers worldwide decried his shameless attack on the media and his critics.

In an onslaught against the press, Trump labelled CNN “terrible” and “fake news,” lambasted the digital-media powerhouse BuzzFeed as a “failing pile of garbage,” then turned his sights on the BBC, calling the news outlet, “another beauty,” and refusing to answer a reporter’s questions.

Could something similar ever happen in Canada? You bet it could.

In B.C., a slightly abridged version of Trump’s scorched-earth offensive against the media and his critics is already underway, led by BC Hydro, with disquieting consequences for the principles of freedom of expression and freedom of the press. 

Besties? BC Hydro and Premier’s Office Too Close for Comfort, Experts Suggest

Fast-tracking Site C dam construction before May’s provincial election is an unusual decision driven more by politics than need, according to a Canadian expert in Crown corporations who suggests the relationship between BC Hydro and the Premier’s office may be “too close for comfort.” 

Luc Bernier, the former head of the Institute of Public Administration of Canada, said Premier Christy Clark’s vow to push Site C past the “point of no return,” when B.C. has a surplus of electricity and Clark is still searching for a buyer for Site C’s power, leads him to believe that that “there’s too much politics around BC Hydro.”

What seems unusual to me is the idea of locking up this project before the provincial election,” said Bernier, who holds the Jarislowsky Chair in Public Sector Management at the University of Ottawa.

If B.C. doesn’t need the electricity for the next decade or so there’s no emergency to build it…The only emergency in this project is the coming election.”

Revealed: Inside the B.C. Government's Site C Spin Machine

BC Hydro officials and members of Premier Christy Clark and Energy Minister Bill Bennett’s offices were all involved in a coordinated attempt to discredit DeSmog Canada’s reporting on the $8.8 billion Site C hydroelectric dam, according to documents obtained through Freedom of Information requests.

The documents detail a flurry of e-mails following a DeSmog Canada story that quoted former BC Hydro CEO Marc Eliesen saying that Site C was proceeding without due diligence, would lead to escalating hydro rate increases and was “scheduled to become a big white elephant,” a story later referenced by the New York Times.

BC Hydro officials were concerned that major B.C. media would pick up on the DeSmog Canada story, based largely on a BC Hydro progress report to the B.C. Utilities Commission. That report noted that Site C had fallen behind on four out of seven key milestones and outlined project risks and reasons why Site C had spent more money than anticipated by the end of last March, while saying that the project’s overall forecast still remained on track.

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.

BC Hydro Plans to Expropriate Farmers’ Home for Site C Before Christmas

BC Hydro plans to expropriate the home of Peace Valley farmers Ken and Arlene Boon before Christmas, following the couple’s refusal to sign over their top class farmland for the Site C dam, DeSmog Canada has learned.

The Boons said that the $8.8 billion dam could still be stopped and they are not budging from their third-generation family home, farmland, garden, greenhouse and workshop to make way for a Site C highway relocation until they are forced to leave.

Tweet: “We’re at peace with the idea of going to expropriation.” http://bit.ly/2hfZDhK @BCHydro #SiteC #bcpoli #cdnpoli We’re at peace with the idea of going to expropriation,” Ken Boon said in an interview.

Arlene and I agreed we didn’t want to sign anything over. It just goes against every bone in our bodies. They’ll have to take it from us.”

BC Hydro will seize the Boon’s farmhouse and 130 hectares of their land on or around December 16, according to the couple. They say they will be permitted to stay in their farmhouse as BC Hydro’s tenants until May 31, three weeks after the B.C. provincial election, and to farm their riverside fields for three more years even though BC Hydro will own the land.

I don’t think they wanted to kick us out during the election campaign,” said Boon.

First Nations Chiefs Say Site C Highway Route Will Desecrate Graves, BC Hydro Disagrees

BC Hydro archaeologists

The route chosen by BC Hydro for a Site C dam highway relocation will “desecrate” a First Nations burial ground and destroy a culturally significant site used by the Dunne-za people for millennia, says West Moberly First Nations Chief Roland Willson.

This is a very serious matter,” Willson wrote in a letter to B.C. Transportation Minister Todd Stone, co-signed by Prophet River First Nation Chief Lynette Tsakoza. Tweet: “Digging up graves is not acceptable in our custom” http://bit.ly/2fADnkV #SiteC #bcpoli #cdnpoli #SiteC @ChristyClarkBC @BCHydro“Digging up graves is not acceptable in our custom.”

Willson told DeSmog that the graves are in an area of the Peace River valley known locally as Bear Flats/Cache Creek, which BC Hydro plans to clear cut this winter for the first phase of a $530 million project to move 30 kilometres of a provincial highway out of the Site C dam flood zone.

New Video: Cutting Through the Spin on the Site C Dam with Harry Swain

Emma Gilchrist

There are a number of arguments against the controversial Site C dam, planned for the Peace River Valley: it floods First Nations land against their consent; it will destroy prized agricultural land; it requires expropriating land from B.C. families and farmers; it will increase the cost of electricity for power B.C. doesn’t even need.

A variety of experts have also come forward to say the project wasn’t properly reviewed and that the B.C. government failed to explore alternatives to the $9 billion project — the most expensive public infrastructure project in the province’s history.

But what are the arguments for the Site C dam? And do they have any merit?

DeSmog Canada’s Emma Gilchrist met with Harry Swain, the man appointed by the B.C. government to chair the joint review panel for Site C, to discuss some of the most commonly used arguments to justify the project.

BC Hydro Missed Rare and Vulnerable Species During Site C Environmental Assessment, New Research Shows

Scientists have discovered rare and notable species in the Site C dam flood zone that were missed in BC Hydro’s environmental assessment of the $8.8 billion project, including spider and true bug species new to Canada and bumblebee and snail species vulnerable to extinction.

The findings underscore the rich biodiversity of the Peace River Valley, a northern low-elevation valley that remains “poorly known biologically in British Columbia,” said David Langor, president of the Biological Survey of Canada, a non-profit organization that coordinates scientific research.

If we were to have a more intensive sampling I’m quite sure that we would come up with quite a pile of other things that are interesting, unique and outside of normal ranges, and perhaps even species that are new to science,” Langor, an Edmonton-based biologist, told DeSmog Canada.

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