Report shows environmental, budget concerns
By Colten Kamlade, Staff reporter
The BC Utilities Commission released a report November 1 on the viability of the Site C Dam.
The report communicated some of the concerns of First Nations groups in the vicinity of Site C. The West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations oppose the completion of the dam.
“The existing human footprint in northeastern BC is already large due to the existing hydroelectric infrastructure, reservoirs, oil and gas industry, forestry and mining,” the report said. “As these industries continue to grow there are fewer lands available for Treaty 8 First Nations to exercise their treaty rights to hunt, trap and fish. Site C will significantly add to this footprint.”
There are, however, First Nations groups that are in favour of the dam.
“McLeod Lake Indian Band supports the completion of Site C for two reasons,” the report said. “Site C provided a watershed moment in the relations between McLeod Lake Indian Band and the Crown. It reset the relationships between McLeod Lake Indian Band and the Crown acknowledging and accommodating past impacts and establishing a new working relationship by entering into numerous agreements amongst the parties.”
According to the report, Yvonne Tupper, a member of the Saulteau First Nation, believes that “the current construction of the Site C dam is already having a significant impact on the wildlife within the Treaty 8 territory due to the clearing of the river banks and islands to be flooded by Site C. Ms. Tupper raised serious concerns regarding negative social and environmental impacts that Site C may have due to the construction, flooding and operation of the dam.”
The report also covers the economic details of the project. The BC Utilities Commission found that the dam would exceed the $8.3 billion budget.
“Currently, completion costs may be in excess of $10 billion,” the report said.
David Waddington, department chair of earth and environmental Science at Douglas College, wrote in an e-mail interview with the Other Press that there are a number of positive aspects to the Site C project.
“No construction project (even a house) can be built without some environmental damage,” he wrote. “If we are moving away from fossil fuels, we need lots more electricity, and hydroelectric power is renewable and green. BC Hydro projected electricity needs for the future in a 2013 report, and Site C is part of the plan to supply that power. Even if you add lots of wind turbines and other ‘green’ options, we will still need big power plants to supply base load power (continuous power needs).”
Waddington said the environment near the Site C project has already been compromised.
“There are two other dams upstream from Site C, so any long-term damage to the Peace River has been done already. The Peace River produces power at WAC Bennett dam, flows down to produce more power at the Peace Canyon Dam. Site C will use the same water a third time to produce more power. Makes more sense than developing power in a more sensitive area. Wind turbines and run-of-river power plants are expensive to operate, and are often located in environmentally-sensitive areas: Remote river valleys and alpine ridge crests,” he wrote.
Halting the project now would be an expensive mistake, according to Waddington.
“Something like $2 billion is already spent, and at least a billion would be required to shut down and remediate the site. Crazy idea to stop this with a $3 billion cost and nothing at the end,” he wrote.