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BC government to decide by December to cancel or continue construction on the Site C dam

Council of Canadians supporter Marilyn Belak (right) and Ken and Arlene Boon (left-to-right) of the Peace Valley Landowner Association at a camp at Rocky Mountain Fort on the Peace River opposing the Site C dam, January 25, 2016.

The Council of Canadians has been voicing its opposition to the Site C hydroelectric dam project since October 2014.

If completed, Site C would be a 60-metre high, 1,050-metre long earth-filled dam on the Peace River in northeastern British Columbia that would create an 83-kilometre long reservoir, flood about 5,500 hectares of agricultural land, and generate the equivalent carbon pollution of about 27,000 cars each year. It would submerge 78 First Nations heritage sites, including burial grounds and places of cultural and spiritual significance.

Construction on the dam began in the summer of 2015 without the free, prior and informed consent of the First Nations within Treaty 8 territory. In the summer of 2016, the Trudeau government granted a Navigation Protection Act permit and Fisheries Act permit for the construction of the Site C dam to continue despite ongoing legal challenges against it by the West Moberly First Nations and Prophet River First Nation.

During the provincial election in BC this past spring the NDP pledged to ask the British Columbia Utilities Commission (BCUC) to review the Site C project and make recommendations on it. On August 2, the NDP government made good on that promise and asked the BCUC submit a report to them by November 1.

The Commission’s report, released today, found that:

1- The energy needs projected by BC Hydro to justify the construction of the dam are “excessively optimistic” (meaning BC Hydro has likely over-forecast the demand for electricity)

2- The dam, which was to cost $8.335 billion, is more likely to end up costing “in excess of $10 billion” (BC Hydro has already spent $2.1 billion on the dam – and one study says the total cost of the dam could reach $12.5 billion)

3- The dam is not likely be completed as scheduled by November 2024 (BC Hydro has already admitted it will miss the 2019 target date of diverting the Peace River)

4- Cancelling the project would cost $1.8 billion while suspending it and restarting it later would cost at least $3.6 billion

5- “Increasingly viable alternative energy sources such as wind, geothermal and industrial curtailment could provide similar benefits to ratepayers as the Site C project with an equal or lower unit energy cost”

6- “The courts have addressed administrative law issues including the Crown’s duty to consult but have not addressed whether the Crown, by approving Site C has unjustifiably infringed the Treaty 8 rights”

The BCUC findings were based on 304 oral submissions made at community input sessions and 620 written submissions, including this one by The Council of Canadians.

The CBC reports, “Energy Minister Michelle Mungall said her government will review the technical aspects of the report in detail and consult with First Nations before making a final decision sometime by the end of the year. …Mungall said that in keeping with the report’s findings, suspension of the project is now off the table — leaving only completion or cancellation as a final option.”

Mungall highlighted, “We will be consulting with First Nations in the next couple of weeks on this report and then we will start beginning our deliberation process at the cabinet table.”

The Council of Canadians joins with West Moberly First Nation Chief Roland Willson, the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, the Peace Valley Landowner Association, the Sierra Club of BC, Green Party leader Andrew Weaver, and numerous others in calling on Premier John Horgan’s cabinet to cancel the Site C dam.