Inspectors find BC Hydro Violating Rules During Site C Construction

Two enforcement orders released by the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office detail BC Hydro’s failure to comply with environmental protection rules during construction of the Site C dam.

The orders, issued to BC Hydro in late December and first reported by the Globe and Mail on Sunday, detail on-site inspections that found BC Hydro out of compliance with permit conditions related to the protection of drinking water and amphibian species.

One non-compliance order found BC Hydro failed to comply with two conditions outlined in Site C construction permits for the protection of amphibian species.

Condition 19 requires BC Hydro to “avoid and reduce injury and mortality to amphibians on roads adjacent to wetlands and other areas where amphibians are known to migrate across roads.”

A related condition, number 16, requires BC Hydro to conduct amphibian surveys at Portage Mountain to “identify specific mitigation structures and placement prior to road construction.”

However in late August, Alex McLean, a compliance inspector with the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office found BC Hydro had constructed an access road at Portage Mountain without conducting amphibian surveys or installing amphibian mitigation structures.

As DeSmog Canada previously reported, BC Hydro requested last-minute permission from the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lakes and Natural Resource Operations to perform “emergency amphibian salvage” on the banks of the Peace River in May. The ministry granted BC Hydro permission in a manner some legal experts say was illegal.

Tweet: Non-compliance order could signal ongoing amphibian management troubles with @BCHydro & #SiteC construction http://bit.ly/2icDCBB #bcpoliThe new non-compliance order could signal ongoing amphibian management troubles.

McLean ordered BC Hydro to bring in a qualified professional to oversee an amphibian survey and mitigation plan.

In an e-mailed statement BC Hydro spokesperson David Conway told DeSmog Canada BC Hydro will have a plan by that professional in place by February 15.

Conway said environmental approval of the Site C project “came with more than 150 legally binding federal and provincial conditions.”

“We take these conditions very seriously.”

According to another condition outlined in Site C’s environmental permit, BC Hydro is required to conduct regular monitoring of water wells located within one kilometre of the proposed Site C reservoir.

As outlined in the certificate, BC Hydro is responsible for ensuring wells near Site C, which will flood 83 kilometres of the Peace Valley, “continue to function as reliable and safe sources of water for human consumption by monitoring potentially affected wells, with the approval of potentially affected well owners, for significant long-term well-quality issues.”

Yet an inspection from the Environmental Assessment Office found BC Hydro has taken insufficient steps to fulfill this condition.

“No well monitoring as required by Condition 56 was conducted between the commencement of construction in July of 2015 and October 2016,” the enforcement order reads.

In a statement e-mailed to DeSmog Canada, BC Hydro spokesperson David Conway said BC Hydro began placing ads in local papers in 2015 asking local well owners to participate in a water quality testing program but no responses were received.

“So BC Hydro decided to conduct groundwater sampling that would be representative of the water quality of surrounding wells,” Conway said.

BC Hydro conducted sampling in June, September and December of 2015 but heard from the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office that the sampling was not in compliance with condition 56, Conway said.

“That’s why we completed a geographic information system (GIS) review of the provincial database of registered well owners in April,” he said, adding that after contacting registered well owners by mail and phone and using ads in local papers, BC Hydro had a complete list of owners agreeing to participate.

“We collected the first round of samples in October,” Conway said. “We’ve provided evidence to the EAO that well monitoring began in October.”

Image: Site C construction. Photo: Garth Lenz/DeSmog Canada

Carol Linnitt is a journalist, editor, illustrator and co-founder of The Narwhal. Carol has been reporting on energy and environmental…

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