(Photo credit: Don Hoffmann)
The Site C dam is a proposed 1,100 megawatt hydro dam on the Peace River in northeastern British Columbia, Canada
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 faced several court challenges from landowners and First Nations who oppose flooding 107 kilometres of the Peace River and its tributaries, putting valuable hunting, fishing and farming areas 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, criticized 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 vowed to get the project past the “point of no return” before the May 2017 election. 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.
The courts dismissed legal challenges against the dam, but questions about the violoation of treaty rights and the need for the electricity remain. In the summer of 2016 the Trudeau government issued permits allowing construction to move ahead.
The Site C dam became a major election issue in the May 2017 B.C. election, with the B.C. NDP vowing to send the Site C dam for an independent review by the B.C. Utilities Commission if elected. The NDP were sworn in as the new government of British Columbia on July 18 and sent the dam for an expedited review by the B.C. Utilities Commission shortly after. A preliminary report is expected to be published on Sept. 20, with a final report expected by Nov. 1.
DeSmog Canada's latest news coverage on the Site C Dam
Site C jobs are often cited as a main reason to proceed with the $9 billion dam on B.C.’s Peace River. But how many jobs would Site C actually create? Are there really 2,375 people currently employed on the project, as widely reported this month?
DeSmog Canada dove into Site C jobs numbers. We found dubious claims, political spin, and far too much secrecy.
As many countries move away from big hydro projects, B.C.’s government must decide whether to continue work on the Site C dam. The controversial megaproject would flood a 100-kilometre stretch of the Peace River Valley and provide enough power for the equivalent of about 500,000 homes.
The B.C. Utilities Commission, an independent body responsible for ensuring British Columbians pay fair energy rates, found the dam is likely behind schedule and over budget, with completion costs estimated at more than $10 billion. In a “high impact” scenario, it may go over budget by as much as 50 per cent.
For years British Columbians have been left in the dark about the most expensive public project in our history.
All of that came to an end on Wednesday when the B.C. Utilities Commission (BCUC) issued its final report on the Site C dam.
The results are, well, damning.
“This report indicates had the Liberals put this to the commission four years ago, Site C would not be built,” Mark Jaccard, a professor at Simon Fraser University's School of Resource and Environmental Management, told the Globe and Mail.
Solar-powered curling, anyone? Or what about solar-powered sewage treatment?
Hudson’s Hope, the municipality that would be most affected by the Site C dam, is going solar with a blast.
“It’s starting to look like a real, honest to goodness twenty-first century solar community,” said Don Pettit of the Peace Energy Renewable Energy Cooperative, the business that recently installed 1,580 photovoltaic panels, giving Hudson’s Hope the largest municipal solar array in the province.
The panels — in more than a half-dozen locations, including on the rooftops of the public works shop, municipal building, curling rink, arena, and beside sewage treatment lagoons — will save an estimated $70,000 a year in hydro bills, according to Hudson’s Hope mayor Gwen Johansson.
A highly anticipated review of B.C.’s Site C dam has found the project is likely to be over budget and behind schedule and alternative energy sources could be built for an equal or lower unit energy cost.
The report from the B.C. Utilities Commission released Wednesday confirmed many of the concerns that have been raised about the project for years.
The panel found BC Hydro’s mid-load forecast for electricity demand in B.C. “excessively optimistic” and noted there are risks that could result in demand being less than even BC Hydro’s lowest demand scenario.
The panel was “not persuaded that the Site C project will remain on schedule” and found “the project is not within the proposed budget of $8.335 billion.”
Currently, completion costs may be in excess of $10 billion, the report read.
The panel concluded it would be too costly to suspend the dam and potentially re-start construction later and focused its efforts on laying out in detail the consequences of either abandoning or completing the dam. The decision now rests with the B.C. government.
Opportunities provided by 21st century renewables, such as geothermal, wind and solar, have either been ignored or the costs over-inflated in BC Hydro documents justifying construction of the Site C dam, the B.C. Utilities Commission Site C Panel was told by presenters during two days of technical briefings.
Speaker after speaker pinpointed holes and inaccuracies in BC Hydro’s math, claiming the bottom line was skewed in favour of building the $8.8-billion dollar dam on the Peace River.
Geothermal power projects are thriving in Oregon and Idaho and the geology does not instantly change at the B.C. border, said Alison Thompson, chair of the Canadian Geothermal Energy Association (CanGEA), pointing to the number of hot springs and drilled natural gas wells in the province, which indicate the presence of geothermal resources.
“So, how much has BC Hydro spent in the last 15 years in exploratory drilling for geothermal resources?” she asked.
BC Hydro’s new CEO Chris O’Riley has written a letter to the B.C. Utilities Commission stating that the crown corporation will not meet the timeline for river diversion for the Site C dam, which will add $610 million to the project’s price tag.
“BC Hydro has encountered some geotechnical and construction challenges on the project and the risk to the river diversion timeline has now materialized,” O’Riley wrote.
“Based on the recent completion of a constructability review and an executive meeting with our Main Civil Works contractor on September 27, 2017, we have now determined that we will not be able to meet the current timeline for river diversion in 2019.”
B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver was never a big fan of LNG, he says, because he never thought the BC Liberal plan for a multi-billion domestic natural gas export industry was even possible. But that was the past: when it comes to the future of clean energy in British Columbia, what is possible?
In the following interview with journalist Christopher Pollon, the climate scientist turned politician expounds on LNG, Site C, and the imminent arrival of energy alternatives like geothermal, “pumped storage” hydro and more.
Weaver conducted this interview via speakerphone as he drove a broken microwave oven to a Victoria-area depot for recycling. Being Green, it seems, is a full-time gig.
A much-anticipated preliminary report from B.C. Utilities Commission (BCUC) has raised numerous questions about the Site C dam, underlined the extent of missing and out-dated information and pointed out unknowns surrounding the largest and most expensive infrastructure project in B.C.
The 205-page report on the economic viability of the $8.8 billion dam was released only hours before the midnight Wednesday deadline, reflecting the tight timeframe given the panel of commissioners when the NDP government referred the controversial project to the utilities commission in early August.
The utilities commission is the independent body responsible for overseeing BC Hydro and ICBC, both crown corporations that use public funds. However, former premier Christy Clark decided to go ahead with the $8.8-billion plan to build a third dam on the Peace River without a review by the utilities commission.
Judges for the Canadian Online Publishing Awards have announced the 2017 finalists and DeSmog Canada has made the cut in two categories.
In the category of “Best Continuing Coverage of a News Story” DeSmog Canada was selected as a finalist for its reporting on the Site C dam, alongside Maclean’s, VICE News, The Tyee/Discourse Media and the National Observer.
With so much happening on the Site C dam file in the last year, it was hard to select just five stories to submit, so we highlighted a variety of multimedia storytelling, as well as in-depth investigative work.