Peace Country Mayor Calls on B.C. to Refer Site C Dam Decision to Independent Regulator

With a provincial decision on the Site C dam expected in September, the District of Hudson’s Hope is calling on B.C. Premier Christy Clark to refer the Site C dam project for review by the B.C. Utilities Commission (BCUC).

“Before spending $7.9 billion of taxpayers money on the proposed Site C dam and increasing the already enormous $62 billion provincial debt, the provincial government needs to do its homework to see if there are less costly alternatives," said Hudson's Hope Mayor Gwen Johansson.

Hudson’s Hope request echoes the findings of the joint review panel’s 457-page report on the Site C dam, which recommended that the B.C. Utilities Commission review Site C’s costs, develop a long-term pricing scenario, review BC Hydro’s load forecasts and demand-side management plans.

“We feel we haven’t had a full arms length, independent review,” Johansson told DeSmog Canada.  “We need to look at the cost, at the demand and at the impact of these emerging technologies.”

The Liberal government previously exempted Site C from the oversight of the B.C. Utilities Commission, which has rejected the project previously. When the joint review panel recommendations came out, Energy Minister Bill Bennett immediately threw cold water on the idea of the project being reviewed by the independent regulator.

“This project has been poked, prodded and analyzed for the last 35 years,” he said at the time. “I think subjecting it to another review after all the years it has been studied, is not a good use of public money.”

A spokesman for Energy Minister Bill Bennett declined a request for comment on Wednesday.

Hudson’s Hope, a community of 1,100 people in the heart of the Peace River Valley, would be impacted more than any other municipality if a third dam is built on the Peace River. About 600 hectares of land in the district would be flooded and another 1,400 would land inside BC Hydro’s “impact lines,” putting the land off limits for permanent structures. Hudson’s Hope is already home to the W.A.C. Bennett Dam and the Peace Canyon dam. (Map of current and proposed dams)

“It’s such a beautiful valley,” Johansson said. “One of the best things about living in Hudson Hope is to drive through the valley from Fort St. John to Hudson Hope and that would be lost.”

Johansson was in Vancouver yesterday to release a report by Urban Systems, commissioned by Hudson’s Hope, reviewing the findings of the joint review panel report.

 “Critical questions about the proposed Site C project and viable alternatives remain unanswered," the report finds. It continues:

“The evidence suggests that a commitment to this $7.9 billion public investment would be premature before the BCUC undertakes a review of the proposed Site C project costs and long-term energy pricing and re-investigates the comparative costs and benefits of potential alternatives.”
With BC Hydro stating that it has generation capacity to meet demand until 2028, Johansson says more time should be taken to consider alternatives.

“Some options have the potential to save B.C. taxpayers billions of dollars while at the same time avoiding the negative impacts of Site C,” Johansson said.

DeSmog Canada’s series on the proposed Site C dam has explored alternatives to the dam — including how the province of B.C. has failed for three decades to follow up on advice to research geothermal options.

"There is no crisis.  Let's adopt the recommendations of the Joint Review Panel and allow the BCUC to do the job it was set up to do,” Johansson said.

Johansson and other Peace Country residents will gather this weekend for the annual Paddle for the Peace.

Photo: Peace Valley near Hudson's Hope by Susan Hubbard via Flickr

Emma Gilchrist is a reporter, editor, public speaker and spreadsheet-keeper. She started her journalism career more than 15 years ago…

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