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Water licence for Site C dam being challenged at BC Environmental Appeal Board

Ken and Arlene Boon with Council of Canadians supporter Marilyn Belak.

There are three formal challenges currently underway against the Site C dam, now under construction in Treaty 8 territory in northeastern British Columbia.

The Dawson Creek Mirror reports, “Two related to the dam’s water licence are before the BC Environmental Appeal Board. One was filed by West Moberly and Prophet River, the other by a property owner. No hearing dates have been set.” Moose FM adds, “The Site C water licence [appeals] are being dealt with by the BC Appeal Board according to Dave Conway with BC Hydro.”

NorthEast News explains, “The licence would allow BC Hydro to divert 2,700 cubic-metres-per-second at the proposed dam site—on the Peace River, just below the confluence with the Moberly River. All reservoir operations in BC are required to obtain a water license from the Comptroller of Water Rights, under BC’s Water Act.”

That article adds, “Under Section 11 of the Water Act, the Comptroller is given the authority to initiate a hearing in regards to a water application, if there are objections to it. It does not specify whether the hearing needs to be in oral or written format. There is no definition of ‘hearing’ given by the Water Act.”

In January 2016, the West Moberly First Nations, Prophet River First Nation, and Saulteau First Nations highlighted their concerns about the potential impacts the Site C dam would have on groundwater.

Those concerns include how groundwater flows would be changed by the dam as well as the interaction between increased groundwater pressures from the dam and the extensive oil and gas activity in the region, including the re-injection of liquid wastes into the ground. They are concerned that changes to groundwater flows could cause those wastes to mix with groundwater.

In August 2015, NorthEast News noted the objections being raised by property owners, Ken and Arlene Boon, to BC Hydro’s application for a water licence.

They are concerned about the future inability to access an underground aquifer as a result of the flooding for the dam. The newspaper notes, “In particular there were two wells of interest on their property which are high yielding, and possibly accessing from the same aquifer which services the City of Fort St. John and the District of Taylor.” The wells are believed to be a high quality source of drinking water.

The third challenge relates to the Prophet River and West Moberly nations appealing an October 2016 BC Supreme Court decision dismissing a judicial review of provincial permits related to clearing work on the site.

Site C is a proposed 60-metre high, 1,050-metre-long earth-filled dam and hydroelectric generation station on the Peace River. It would create an 83-kilometre-long reservoir and flood about 5,550 hectares of agricultural land southwest of Fort St. John. It would also submerge 78 First Nations heritage sites, including burial grounds and places of cultural and spiritual significance.

In the summer of 2015, logging and land clearing for the dam began. In the summer of 2016, the Trudeau government granted a Navigation Protection Act permit and Fisheries Act permit for the construction of dam to continue despite the ongoing legal challenges. Earlier this year, the Vancouver Sun reported, “On [January 4] an ‘inspection record’ posted by the BC Environmental Assessment Office concluded that BC Hydro’s repeated non-compliance with sediment and erosion issues at Site C had ’caused adverse effects to water quality and fish habitat’ on the Peace and Moberly river systems.”

The dam is scheduled to be operational in 2024.

The Council of Canadians first formally expressed its opposition to the Site C dam in October 2014.