(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 is facing several court challenges from landowners and First Nations who oppose flooding 107 kilometres of the Peace River and its tributaries, putting valuable farmland 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, panned 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 has vowed to get it past the “point of no return.” 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.
Several legal cases are still in the courts and questions about the need for the electricity remain. First Nations, Amnesty International, the David Suzuki Foundation and the Royal Society of Canada called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to halt construction permits until the court cases have been heard — but the Trudeau government issued permits allowing construction to move ahead on July 27, 2016.
The Site C dam is shaping up to be an 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.
DeSmog Canada's latest news coverage on the Site C Dam
This is a guest post by Ray Eagle.
Many British Columbians may not realize that the $9 billion Site C dam, currently under construction on the Peace River, has a 46-year back-story.
B.C. Hydro began engineering studies for Site C back in 1971. In the early 1980s B.C. Hydro went before the newly formed British Columbia Utilities Commission (BCUC), created “to ensure that ratepayers receive safe, reliable, and nondiscriminatory energy services at fair rates from the utilities it regulates, and that shareholders of those utilities are afforded a reasonable opportunity to earn a fair return on their invested capital.”
In November 1983, the BCUC issued a 315-page summary that stated the dam was not needed at that time, while at the same time criticizing B.C. Hydro’s forecasting ability.
“The Commission examined the methodology of Hydro's forecasting … and concluded that, while significant improvements have been made, further improvements can and should be made to improve reliability,” the report read.
For years, B.C. Premier Christy Clark has been under immense pressure to deliver on the liquefied natural gas (LNG) promises that formed the backbone of her 2013 election campaign.
Back then, the Liberals predicted LNG could create almost 40,000 construction jobs in BC, 75,000 full-time jobs once in operation, and much more.
“It's no fantasy,” read the Liberal platform of 2013. “We can create $1 trillion in economic activity and create the BC Prosperity Fund with $100 billion over 30 years.”
But four years later, the opportunity to cash in on LNG exports to Asia has dissolved, while the $100 million currently sitting in the Prosperity Fund has been drawn not from natural gas, but from sources like the premiums for the BC Medical Services Plan.
Residents of Newfoundland and Labrador are preparing for electricity rates to double in the next five years, adding an estimated $150 per month in power costs for the average homeowner, as a consequence of building the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric dam — and experts warn it could be a cautionary tale for British Columbia.
“Muskrat Falls was not the right choice for the power needs of this province,” public power company CEO Stan Marshall told the press last year, confirming the project is a “boondoggle.”
“It was a gamble and it's gone against us.”
Meantime in British Columbia, debate continues over whether to continue building the 1,100 megawatt Site C hydro dam on the Peace River, estimated to cost $9 billion, at a time that power demand has been essentially flat for 10 years, despite population growth.
“There are a lot of parallels between British Columbia and Newfoundland,” David Vardy, former CEO of the Newfoundland Public Utilities Board, told DeSmog Canada. “There’s the same fixation with the megaproject.”
Canada’s largest World Heritage Site is under threat from unfettered oilsands development and hydro dams on the Peace River — where the B.C. government is now planning to build the massive Site C dam — says a hard-hitting report by a United Nations agency.
While contaminants from the oilsands are affecting water and air quality, water flows through Wood Buffalo National Park are being strangled by dams, according to the highly critical report by the UNESCO World Heritage Centre and International Union for Conservation of Nature
The report warns that, if there is not a “major and timely” response to its recommendations the organization will recommend that Wood Buffalo National Park be included in the list of World Heritage in Danger, a list usually reserved for sites in war-torn countries or those facing other disasters.
The park, made up of 4.5 million hectares of boreal plains in northern Alberta and the southern Northwest Territories, has been affected by decades of massive industrial development along the Peace and Athabasca Rivers, along with poor management and lack of overall consideration of the effect of projects, it says.
“The scale, pace and complexity of industrial development along the critical corridors of the Peace and Athabasca Rivers is exceptional and does not appear to be subject to adequate analysis to underpin informed decision-making and the development of matching policy, governance and management responses,” says the executive summary, which adds that the park is also subject to the additional stress of climate change.
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.”
In a sit-down video interview, former B.C. Premier Mike Harcourt told DeSmog Canada the Site C dam, proposed for the Peace River, is “a bad idea” and should be abandoned immediately.
Site C, originally projected to cost B.C. ratepayers $5.5 billion, is now estimated to cost $9 billion.
Harcourt said Site C follows a long history of hydro project cost overruns.
“The average overage cost of dams worldwide over the last 70 years have averaged 90 per cent overage. So you can assume Site C is going to cost, probably, $15 billion to $17 billion dollars,” he said.
This article originally appeared on iPolitics.
The man sitting at the head of the table has a face that should be on money.
It is calm, etched with wrinkle lines of infinite patience, utterly immune to honeyed words. Grand Chief Stewart Phillip has heard more vows than the parsons in Reno’s drive-thru wedding chapels — most of them destined to be broken by the politicians who made them. Yet behind the softness, the weary eyes suggest something else. These are undefeated eyes.
I am in the downtown Vancouver boardroom of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs and the gentle voice is saying some very tough things.
“My wife and I were scheduled to march in the Chinese New Year’s parade in Vancouver, until we found out that Trudeau was going to be there,” he says. “No way was I going to meet him unless I was on one side of the barrier, and he was on the other.”
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.
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.”
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.