Premier Christy Clark has announced that the B.C. Liberal government has granted approval for the building of the Site C dam on the Peace River.
The potential cost of the dam has climbed from $7.9 billion to $8.775 billion, including a $8.335 billion capital cost estimate and $440 million reserve fund. As well, the construction start date has been pushed back to summer 2015.
"Site C is essential to keeping the lights on while maintaining low rates for our customers," Jessica McDonald, president and CEO of B.C. Hydro, stated in a news release. "This project will build on the success of our existing hydroelectric system and benefit British Columbians for generations to come."
Measuring 60 metres high and over one kilometre long, the third dam on the Peace River in northeastern B.C. would create a 83-kilometre-long reservoir flooding 5,557 hectares of land. With 1,100 megawatts of capacity, it would generate enough electricity to power 450,000 homes per year.
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, called the approval an "ill-advised and incredibly stupid decision".
"BC Hydro has failed to make its case in terms of future energy demands and have not adequately outlined an economic business case for construction and repayment of the most expensive capital project in the history of BC. Accordingly, the Site C proposal needs to be properly reviewed by the BC Utilities Commission prior to any approvals. Further to this, the dam, associated structures and rights-of-ways will run directly through the heart of Treaty 8 First Nations territories and will have devastating impacts on Treaty rights of Treaty 8 First Nations. The project will gravely impact the ability of Treaty 8 communities way of life in exercising their treaty-protected constitutionally-enshrined rights to hunt, fish, trap, and harvest across their lands," Phillip said in a release.
Environmentalist are also criticizing the provincial decision.
Sierra Club B.C.'s Site C campaigner Ana Simeon stated in a release: “The cabinet had a chance to apply the brakes to a project dominated by overblown demand projections and a high likelihood of runaway costs. Only last week, the Premier tacked another $600 million to Site C’s price tag, bringing it to $8.78 billion.
“Unfortunately, the cabinet has chosen to expose British Columbians to spiralling debt and legal risk from First Nations lawsuits – in order to produce electricity we currently don’t need and will have to sell at a loss."
The Wilderness Committee predicted Site C will go down as the "most expensive mistake in BC’s history".
“The Site C dam project is so damaging to the environment and wasteful of taxpayers funds that it’s beyond me how any government could come out in favour of building it – but they have,” Joe Foy, the Wilderness Committee’s national campaign director, stated in another release.
“The human rights impacts associated with the project – particularly to First Nations communities – are egregious and shameful.”
According to the province's release on Site C, the "firm energy it provides will support the development of more independent power projects (IPPs) by backing-up intermittent resources, such as wind".