The report that could decide the fate of BC Hydro’s $7.9-billion Site C dam on the Peace River has been submitted to the federal and provincial governments and is expected to be made public later this week.
The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) submitted its final report last Thursday on what will be the third hydro dam on the Peace River if given final approval by Ottawa and BC’s environment ministers.
Though the final decision on the proposed project rests with the government, the recommendations contained within the panel’s report are anticipated to play a significant role in whether or not the 1,100-megawatt dam, which would flood 3,000 hectares of agricultural and Aboriginal land, will be given the go-ahead.
The report is expected to be made public online this Thursday.
The ministers have until this fall to make a decision on the project before referring that recommendation back to BC’s cabinet.
The completion of the report follows the more than two-year review, including 26 days of public hearings held on both the BC and Alberta sides of the border.
The panel received more than 1,500 comments and examined more than 1,000 documents over the five weeks of hearings.
Among those who gave statements were a number of northern BC First Nations who stated their firm opposition to the project advancing, noting it would flood sacred burial sites, hunting grounds and communities, and impact wildlife.
Alberta Environment and Parks Canada also submitted statements of concern with respect to the project, stating it is bound to have drastic adverse impacts on life downstream.
Parks Canada officials with Wood Buffalo National Park (WBNP) said the Peace-Athabasca Delta, which is already feeling the effects of drought caused by regulated river flow from existing upstream dams and climate change, will be further negatively impacted by another hydro project.
Community members in Fort Chipewyan have spoken out against the project since its proposal, stating their traditional way of life is being destroyed by decreasing water levels, which see less wildlife inhabit the delta region.
“Local people are reporting that changing plant communities, water levels and use by wildlife have affected their traditional use of, and connection to, the area,” states the submission from WBNP.
Those changes have seen a disappearance of wetland and the almost complete extirpation of muskrat from the delta.
If approved, the dam would stretch across the Peace River near Fort St. John, BC, measuring 1,050 metres long and 60 metres high, and would create a 83-km-long reservoir.
The electricity produced – about 5,000 gigawatt hours per year – would be enough to power 450,000 homes.