The provincial government has granted BC Hydro’s Site C hydroelectric dam project an environmental assessment certificate.
“Site C is in the public interest and that the benefits provided by the project outweigh the risks of significant adverse environmental, social and heritage effects,” read a joint statement issued by Environmental Minister Mary Polak and Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Minister Steve Thomson.
The decision was made after an environmental assessment completed by both the provincial and federal governments concluded that this was the most economic option with the smallest output of greenhouse gas emissions.
However, the Joint Review Panel also noted that there would be a major impact to the environment and First Nations as well as a depletion in agricultural lands to the Peace Valley.
“Replacing a portion of the Peace River with an 83-kilometre reservoir would cause significant adverse effects on fish and fish habitat and a number of birds and bats, smaller vertebrate and invertebrate species, rare plants, and sensitive ecosystems,” sated the Joint Review Panel report.
Extensive public consultation efforts were conducted with affected aboriginal groups and other local communities.
The provincial environmental assessment certificate also includes 77 legally-binding conditions that BC Hydro must fulfill. This includes the establishment of a $20-million fund to compensate for lost agricultural lands and activities as well as the construction of 50 rental units in Fort St. John for both BC Hydro employee housing and low-to-moderate income households.
Site C is located seven kilometres southwest of Fort St. John and will consist of a 83-kilometre long reservoir. Construction is estimated to cost $7.9-billion and would be the third dam and hydroelectric generating station on the Peace River in northeast B.C.
It is estimated that the project will create 1,100 megawatts of additional grid capacity and produce about 5,100 gigawatt hours of electricity every year or enough to power 450,000 homes per year.
Two additional approvals are required for the project to proceed: a federal environmental certificate needs to be issued followed by a final stamp of approval from the provincial government, which is expected sometime next month.
BC Hydro is currently aiming for a 2024 completion of the hydroelectric project.
Feature Image: BC Hydro