Site C

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.

BC Hydro Applies to Demolish Rare, Ancient Wetland for Site C Construction

Talk about the government fox guarding the hen house. BC Hydro has applied to the provincial government for a new licence 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.”

Halting Construction of Site C Could Save $112-million Annually, Says Energy Expert

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 Tweet: '@BCHydro could save $112.74-million on an annual basis by instead building wind & solar' http://bit.ly/2e41U3w #SiteC #bcpoli #bcelxn17BC 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.

BC Hydro Repeating Painful History with First Nations

Construction on Site C dam

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.

Hydro Reservoirs Produce Way More Emissions Than We Thought: Study

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.

Tweet: Weird. #Hydropower reservoirs worldwide produce as much GHGs as all of Canada annually http://bit.ly/2dStxvA #bcpoli #cdnpoli #SiteCResearchers found that reservoirs are producing 1.3 per cent of all greenhouse gases produced by humans, or, to put the figure in context, more than all greenhouse gases produced in Canada annually.

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.

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