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Site C Dam Given Environmental Assessment Approval

The provincial government says the proposed Site C dam project has benefits that outweigh the risks and granted an environmental assessment approval.

Environment Minister Mary Polak and Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Minister Steve Thomson issued a certificate to BC Hydro for the project. The Site C project, which would be located seven kilometres southwest of Fort St John, has not received approval to begin construction, but this decision moves it one step closer to reality.

Design sketch of the Site C dam (Photo Credit: BC Hydro)

“The ministers made the decision after considering a co-operative environmental assessment with the federal government that included a joint review panel,” reads a statement released by the ministry. “The environmental assessment included consultation with and input from Aboriginal groups, government agencies, communities and the public.”

The province must still decide whether to proceed with the project based on an investment decision. BC Hydro would also need to obtain a variety of provincial permits before construction could begin. The ministers issued the certificate with 77 legally-binding conditions that BC Hydro must meet to be in compliance, including:

-Establish a fund of $20 million to compensate for lost agricultural lands and activities. The funds will be used to support enhancement projects that improve agricultural land, productivity or systems;
-Develop a Wetland Mitigation and Compensation Plan and monitor construction and operation activities that could cause changes in wetland function;
-Develop an Aboriginal Business Participation Strategy to maximize opportunities for Aboriginal businesses;
-Implement on-site health care with physician and nursing services to manage non-urgent issues for the workforce residing in camps;
-Develop protocols for application of construction methods, equipment, material and timing of activities to mitigate adverse effects to wildlife and wildlife habitat;

Design sketch of the Site C dam (Photo Credit: BC Hydro)

-Build 50 rental units in Fort St. John, of which 40 will be used for BC Hydro housing and 10 will be available for low-to-moderate income households. Upon completion of the construction phase, the 40 worker housing units will be made available to low-to-moderate income households;
-In collaboration with a Cultural and Heritage Resources Committee that includes Aboriginal groups, develop and implement mitigation measures to manage effects on cultural resources;
-Design the installation and use of a trap-and-haul facility as part of a fish passage management plan;
-Establish three new boat launch/day use sites and provide approximately $200,000 for a Community Recreation Site Fund; and
-Monitor greenhouse gas emissions from the reservoir for the first ten years of operations as part of a Greenhouse Gases Monitoring and Follow-up Program.

The $7.9 billion project would be the third dam and hydroelectric generating station on the Peace River and would provide 1,100 megawatts of capacity and produce about 5,100 gigawatt hours of electricity each year. That is enough to power about 450,000 homes per year.

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