BC Hydro

Year-Long Wait for Site C Dam Budget Docs 'Disturbing': Expert

Site C dam construction

Are you curious to know the results of our Freedom of Information request for an updated budget and timeline for the $8.8 billion Site C dam project on B.C.’s Peace River?

So are we.

We were told by former energy minister Bill Bennett’s office that we would have the information on May 30, three weeks after the provincial election and nine months after we filed our request.

But then we received an e-mail from the ministry on May 24, advising us that the deadline had been extended by 45 business days. It had become apparent upon reviewing 880 pages of relevant records, said the e-mail from a government FOI specialist, “that an external consultation is required with BC Hydro.”

Horgan to Hydro: Don’t Sign New Site C Contracts or Evict Residents

Arlene Boon

B.C. NDP Leader John Horgan has written to B.C. Hydro CEO Jessica McDonald to urge the crown corporation not to finalize any contracts or evict any residents to make way for the Site C dam until a new government is in place.

I note that the majority of British Columbians who voted in this election voted for parties that want to see the Site C project reviewed or stopped,” Horgan wrote to McDonald.

A co-operation agreement between the B.C. NDP and Green Party released this week indicated that if the NDP forms government, Site C will immediately be sent for an expedited review by the B.C. Utilities Commission.

However, construction will not be paused during the review, which has led to concerns that irreversible harm could be done to the Peace Valley in the coming months. Enter today’s letter to McDonald.

I write to you today to express my concern regarding impacts on the community of Bear Flat, the West Moberly First Nation, the Prophet River First Nation, and other families and communities impacted by the government’s decision to expropriate lands for the advancement of Site C,” Horgan wrote.

Site C Dam Set to Finally Undergo Review of Costs and Demand

Horgan Weaver NDP-Green Agreement Site C

The controversial $9 billion Site C dam project will be sent for immediate review with the B.C. Utilities Commission if NDP Leader John Horgan becomes B.C.’s premier, according to a landmark agreement between the NDP and Greens.

The agreement outlines the terms of a power-sharing agreement as well as a path forward on key election issues, including the future of the Site C dam.

The agreement sets out a requirement to “immediately refer the Site C construction project to the B.C. Utilities Commission” to investigate the economic viability and consequences of the project for British Columbians.

During the election campaign the Greens vowed to stop the Site C project outright while the NDP committed to send the project for independent review by the B.C. Utilities Commission, a body designed to regulate BC Hydro and electricity rates. The B.C. Liberals exempted Site C from utilities commission scrutiny.

This Old Mine Is Now B.C.’s Largest Solar Farm

SunMine in Kimberley, BC

For over a century, the landscape north of Kimberley, B.C., was used for intensive industrial hard-rock mining — but now it’s home to the largest solar farm in all of British Columbia. 

Over the decades, the site of Teck’s (formerly Cominco’s) Sullivan Mine hosted a steel mill, fertilizer plant and tailings ponds, rendering the area tree-less for the forseeable future.

What to do with an elevated, south-facing slope that could never again see natural shade? Ecosmart, a Vancouver-based nonprofit, had a brilliant idea in 2008. Why not mine the sun?

Solar energy is one of the fastest growing industries in North America and its potential in B.C. is exceptional,” explains Ecosmart president and CEO Michel de Spot, one of the main visionaries behind the project.

B.C.'s Biggest Wind Farm Just Came Online — But Future of Wind in Province Bleak

B.C.'s Biggest Wind Farm Just Came Online — But Future of Wind in Province Bleak

On wind-swept ridgelines, surrounded by pine-beetle ravaged forests, the massive turbines at B.C.’s largest wind power project have started turning.

The Meikle Wind project, built by Pattern Development, will increase wind power capacity in the province by more than one third — to almost 674 megawatts — and will be able to generate energy for up to 54,000 homes, according to Mike Garland, Pattern CEO.

The wind farm, 33 kilometres north of Tumbler Ridge, has a 25-year power purchase agreement with BC Hydro and benefits to the province include an expected $70-million in payments for property taxes, Crown lease payments, wind participation rent and community benefits over 25 years.

The wind farm uses the latest technology, with blade tips reaching as high as 170 metres, and the ability to individually control each turbine to capture maximum energy from the wind.

It’s another step forward in the evolution of wind technology,” said Robert Hornung, president of the Canadian Wind Energy Association.

Wind farms are now truly power plants.”

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.”

Site C Dam Ruling Says a Lot About Canada’s Relationship with First Nations

Caleb Behn

The Site C hydro dam in northeastern B.C. may be more than a year into construction, but the federal government still hasn’t determined whether the mega dam infringes on treaty rights — and, according to a Federal Court of Appeal ruling this week, the government isn’t obligated to answer that question.

The West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations filed a judicial review in November 2014, arguing the federal government should have determined if the Site C dam infringes on treaty rights prior to issuing permits for the dam, which would flood more than 100 kilometres of river valley.

Seems like a bit of a no-brainer, right? Turns out it’s not.

This week, the Court of Appeal upheld an earlier decision, which stated that the federal cabinet wasn’t required to determine if there was any  infringement of treaty rights, which are protected under the Canadian constitution.

How can they authorize a project of this magnitude and not even turn their minds to whether it’s infringement given the history of this file?” Allisun Rana, legal counsel for the West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations, told DeSmog Canada.

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