Premier Gordon Campbell's Site C dam is starting to look like a done deal

Don't kid yourself. Premier Gordon Campbell may have decided to build the Site C hydroelectric dam around the same time as then-B.C. Progress Board chairman David Black recommended doing this in a newspaper article back in April 2004.

But it wasn't going to help Campbell's northeastern MLAs by announcing this before the 2005 or the 2009 elections.

With the last election out of the way, Campbell will likely declare on Monday (April 19) that his government is moving to the third of a five-stage process that will determine the future of the proposal.

This will create an impression among some that this is not a done deal. 

This third stage, which is expected to last two years, involves dealing with regulatory issues and the environmental assessment of the project.

Keep in mind that in Campbell's B.C., environmental assessments never thwart major capital projects. Especially ones as big as the Site C dam, which will cost up to $6.6 billion and would flood the Peace River valley between the Peace Canyon Dam and the point where the Peace and Moberly rivers connect.

And if the B.C. Utilities Commission gets in the way—like it did with run-of-river power projects—a Campbell-led government will likely change the law to ensure that the Site C dam will still go ahead.

That will be followed by stage four (detailed design and engineering) and stage five (construction).

The 1,100-metre-long Site C dam would be located seven kilometres southwest of Fort St. John, and would generate enough electricity for about 460,000 homes. Behind it would be an 83-kilometre reservoir, which would flood approximately 5,340 hectares.

Even though this will be one of the biggest announcements of Campbell's political career, the Site C dam wasn't even mentioned in the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources service plan this year.

Here are some things I'll be watching for in Monday's announcement:

* Whether Campbell will admit that the power generated by the Site C dam will be used to help companies extract bitumen from the Alberta tar sands, which would belie any claims that this is a green energy project.

* Whether Campbell will provide reporters with an estimate of how much energy generated from the Site C dam will cost per kilowatt-hour.

* Whether Campbell will link the pending environmental assessment of the Site C dam to concerns about peak oil, which is a topic he has steadfastly avoided discussing while promoting the Gateway roadbuilding program in Metro Vancouver.

Related article: Peace River power play over potential Site C dam

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Red Green

Apr 18, 2010 at 7:55am

"Keep in mind that in Campbell's B.C., environmental assessments never thwart major capital projects."

The BC Environmental Assessment Office has never recommended that any project not go ahead in its history.

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Apr 18, 2010 at 9:18am

Big Hydro like Site C will produce more green house gas per kwh than burning coal because of all the methane it produces from rotting vegetation. Methane is 25 times as potent a GHG as CO2. Green it is not.

At least Site C gives us valuable baseload power instead of us paying Gordo's stockbroker cronies in the Pirate Power scam 12.6 cents a kwh for worthless springtime only power.

That we will be able to buy much cheaper clean and green nuclear power from Alberta by the time Site C is finished is not a factor in Energy minister Lekstrom's decision.

We could duplicate AECL's Qinshan project on the site of Burrard Thermal, for less than than $3.0B, producing 3 times the power at less than half the cost of Site C keeping 10000 prime agricultural Hectares.

The new Enhanced Candu's can be powered by a used fuel remix from American PWR reactors - no mining.

Oddly, Pirate Power Chief Engineer, Dr.Bruce Ripley P.Eng, President and COO, Plutonic Power Corporation has stated that nuclear is one of the best options for British Columbia. Lekstrom with his high diploma thinks he knows better.


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glen p robbins

Apr 18, 2010 at 3:02pm

There are legal issues coming down the pike for the Commission -- the regulatory oversight is not set properly for the exisitng problems -- potential class actions against Utilities (potential fraud?) - breach of federal acts) and the proof is being provided to media as it goes.

We've conducted one Site C poll recently and are just finishing up another in time for the BC Liberals ---- action/distraction--.

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Apr 18, 2010 at 3:31pm

Ask the private power producers what they want and that will give you a pretty good idea what Gordo will do. Energy policy in BC has been developed for their benefit for 10 years, so why would anything change now?

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Apr 18, 2010 at 10:17pm

There will be net greenhouse gas emmissions equivalent to 36,000 cars being put on the road if this dam is built. Shocked? Learn more!

Download "BC's Peace River Valley and Climate Change" here:

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Apr 19, 2010 at 9:52am

The whole exercise of public & First Nations "consultations" has been a carefully managed process to ensure that "efforts" were documented and all the ducks are in a row, especially if a court challenge is launched. Site C has been a done deal since pre-stage 1. Campbell requesting Negotiator Jack Wesigerber to step down from the BC Hydro Board to run the Fist Nation consulatation and the gobs of money being thrown at Hydro henchmen to do Campbells bidding on this are painfully obvious and don't bode well for a Peace Valley without Site C.

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glen p robbins

Apr 20, 2010 at 8:21am

The requirements including federal approval --to get this deal done, and the extensive time involved for these approvals make this announcement almost irrelevant given Campbell's (lack of) standing in the community. Indeed -- because HE announced Site C -- this policy is damaged right from the beginning--because the BC Liberals don't have the requisite support to make financial decisions.

In a minority federal government situation the PMO and Executive will never co-operate with Campbell -- they don't want to get polled out of office --

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Richard Hermann

Apr 22, 2010 at 8:56am

As one who is normally very quick to criticize the government when they make a dumb move, I feel a responsibility to acknowledge and praise their efforts when they make a smart move.

The decision to proceed with the Site C hydro development is a wise decision that will benefit the Province for generations. The benefits resulting from the long term generation of renewable, clean, low cost power will far outweigh the relatively short-term environmental and capital costs of the project.

The operating cost to produce power from a large hydro development is much less than the cost of electricity produced from smaller projects like wind farms and run-of river projects, and the environmental cost of a single large project is inherently less than that of an equivalent multitude of small ones. Also, the site C development will benefit from water storage reservoirs already installed for upstream projects—that water will be used three times to generate power on its way down river.

The environmental cost, and the pain of losing land with a family history and sentimental ties, while certainly significant to those directly involved, is really insignificant in the overall. After all, the area of the reservoir proposed to be created for Site C is less than six one thousandths of one percent of the area of the province—hardly what one would call significant.

The Campbell government is to be commended for the decision to proceed with the Site C development. The only criticism I would make is that it should have been done sooner

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glen p robbins

Apr 22, 2010 at 1:04pm

Mr. Hermann, respectfully, how can we even begin to make a decision about Site C when we don't know the actual cost. (We've estimated the actual present/future value cost to be more in the neighbourhood of 15-18 billion not 6).

The Premier and Finance Minister could not properly deal with a 3 billion dollar amount on the budget during the election. The BC Liberal Party has racked up (60 billion debt) far more debt than the former NDP party government. Including 3P's this debt could climb to 100 billion with much of this debt -- and information not available to tax payers.

In the midst of an HST conversation (a lie), fueled by Budget deficits (a lie) during an election (a crying shame) - for the premier himself to say well 6 billion -- it could be more, it is impossible for a reasonable person to contemplate this policy initiative in terms of basic supply and demand arguments -- notwithstanding the obvious sensitivity required to provide further calculation against supply and demand arguments in total cost economics.

Would the premier and energy minister look to another 3P project on the Hydro construction to hide the costs AGAIN?

At present the level of debate and discussion on this Site C matter -- both at the political level (and certainly some media) is-- in my estimation at about a grade 5 standard.

I expect some folks to want to take this skanky bait offered by Campbell and the BC Liberals -- to mitigate their own guilt over handing their vote over to an unmitigated liar --

How anyone with a semblance of a cv could get involved in this -- should frighten anyone capable of making a complete decision.

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@Richard Hermann

Apr 22, 2010 at 2:01pm

Richard Hermann, you sound like a dam building corporate troll. Just you work for Mr. Campbell's PR agency? Or maybe for one of the private hydroelectric power companies that will directly benefit from this taxpayer ripoff?

Here is a quick overview of the "Site C Dam" proposal for the Peace River: the plan is to build a gigantic hydroelectric dam (6 billion cost, paid for with your taxes): the dam will provide electricity to a private company that is extracting natural gas near the dam--which will then be funneled via a giant pipeline across BC to Alberta, where the natural gas will be used to help produce oil in the tarsands!

George W. Bush and Dick Cheney would be extremely proud of Mr. Campbell. <barf, gag, vomit>

When will this madness end!? How many more dams will be built on ages old rivers, killing off salmon runs, displacing natives who have lived there for thousands of years, flooding prime agricultural land, and basically industrializing some of the most beautiful land and rivers in all of N. America?

Look at (what's left of) the Columbia River: its a chain of lakes, with radioactive waste leaching into it at Hanford. BC has some of the most exquisitely beautiful rivers and natural areas...what a tragedy to see these UGLY dams permanently ruining these rivers, turning these beautiful places into industrial zones to serve giant energy corporations and their puppet premiere toadies like Campbell.

I am sick of neoliberals! I hate big business and their corrupt politicians like Campbell! I for one question the assumption that EVERYTHING must be sacrificed on the altar of the almighty dollar...that all rivers and land must be dammed, developed, drilled, mined, clearcut, paved, and covered with hi-rise condominiums! Jesus christ when will this madness end?

Greedy fucking capitalists: your greed for more and more money is wiping out what little is left of the wild and green places on Earth....and look at what you've done to the oceans---they are full of goddamned plastic! Go google "giant pacific plastic vortex".

The corporate capitalist assumption of endless economic "growth" is KILLING THE PLANET and turning it into an industrial SHITHOLE.

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