Site C construction. Peace River. B.C.

Site C Dam

The Site C dam is a 1,100 megawatt hydro dam currently under construction on the Peace River in northeastern British Columbia, Canada.

The dam has been proposed since the 1970s and, if completed, would be the third dam on the Peace River. With a price tag of $16 billion, Site C is both the costliest dam in Canadian history and the most expensive publicly funded infrastructure project in B.C. history.

The B.C. government gave Site C the go-ahead in December 2014, but the dam faced several court challenges from landowners and First Nations who oppose flooding 128 kilometres of the Peace River and its tributaries, putting Indigenous burial grounds, traditional hunting and fishing areas, habitat for more than 100 species vulnerable to extinction and some of Canada’s richest farmland under up to 50 metres of water.

Harry Swain, the chair of the joint federal-provincial panel that reviewed the Site C dam, criticized the B.C. government’s actions on the dam in March 2015, in comments called “unprecedented” by environmental law experts.

Two Treaty 8 First Nations are awaiting court dates for civil actions that allege the Site C dam and the two previous dams on the Peace River unjustifiably violate their constitutionally protected treaty rights.

Construction started on the dam in fall 2015 and B.C. Premier Christy Clark vowed to get the project past the “point of no return” before the May 2017 election. Local farmers and First Nations members prevented logging at historic Rocky Mountain Fort for two months, but BC Hydro won an injunction against them in March 2016 and the camp was removed.

The Site C dam became a major election issue in the May 2017 B.C. election, with the B.C. NDP vowing to send the Site C dam for an independent review by the B.C. Utilities Commission if elected. The NDP were sworn in as the new government of British Columbia on July 18 and sent the dam for an expedited review by the B.C. Utilities Commission shortly after. A final report released Nov. 1 found the project is behind schedule and over budget and could be replaced by alternatives for $8.8 billion or less.

The B.C. government announced it would proceed with Site C on December 11, 2017. On Feb. 26, 2021, Premier John Horgan reiterated his commitment to build the dam, raising the budgeted cost from $10.7 billion to $16 billion amid growing geotechnical problems.

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