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First Nations vow Site C court action

By Jane Deacon

A rendering of how the Site C Dam proposed by BC Hydro will look when completed.
(SUBMITTED)

A rendering of how the Site C Dam proposed by BC Hydro will look when completed. (SUBMITTED)

The provincial government has approved the $8.7-billion Site C dam project, with construction on the energy project expected to begin next summer.

In an announcement Tuesday, Premier Christy Clark called the dam the province’s most affordable, reliable option for clean energy for the next 100 years.

“Site C will support our quality of life for decades to come and will enable continued investment and a growing economy,” she said in a release.

The project will flood an 83-km stretch of the Peace River near Fort St. John and is expected to generate enough electricity to power roughly 450,000 homes per year, an 8% increase in supply to BC Hydro’s system in 2024.

Cost estimates for the project have climbed in recent weeks, up from $7.9 billion in October. Clark said she is confident BC Hydro will come in under budget, with the new target including a $440-million reserve for unexpected costs.

First Nations leaders quickly denounced the government’s decision, decrying the consultation process and the effects on 5,500 hectares of land within the traditional territory.

The First Nations Summit argues the dam’s construction will have significant impacts on the ability of bands to engage in constitutionally-protected activities around the reservoir.

Several bands have already launched court proceedings to reverse federal approval of the project, with action against the provincial government likely after Tuesday’s announcement.

Jessica McDonald, BC Hydro CEO, said consultations with affected First Nations groups have been underway for seven years and agreements will be offered for impacts that cannot be mitigated.

The project has also come under fire from environmental groups and local landowners. In May, a joint environmental review panel called the project the best alternative for new energy, but cautioned of a number of environmental and aboriginal issues.

“Three successive reviews have exposed fundamental flaws that are not going to go away, from the impact on First Nations Treaty rights to the proponent’s failure to even demonstrate the need for the power,” said a statement from the Sierra Club BC.

But it was a welcome decision for the BC Chamber of Commerce, which says the project will bolster the province’s economic future.

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