April 20, 2017 2:13 am
Updated: April 20, 2017 3:49 am

Site C dam project should be suspended: UBC study

WATCH: : A new study from UBC says the original business plan for the Site C dam doesn’t hold water anymore –and the mega-project should be suspended.

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A day after BC Liberal leader Christy Clark donned a hard hat to campaign near the Site C dam project, three UBC scientists are calling for construction on the mega dam to be suspended — not cancelled — and reviewed by the B.C. Utilities Commission.

“The business case for Site C has gotten a lot weaker over the past few years since it was approved,” report co-author Karen Bakker — Canada Research Chair and Founding Director of UBC’s Program on Water Governance — said.

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The report lists three main reasons for halting the project:

– A decline in the cost of other options for generating electricity such as wind power
– A reduction in electricity demand in 2024 and beyond, according to BC Hydro forecasts
– An increase in the cost of Site C

The report claims cancelling Site C by June 30 could save taxpayers between $500 million and $1.6 billion, but recommends “suspension and review by the B.C. Utilities Commission rather than outright cancellation.”

WATCH: UBC researchers release report on Site C dam project

The future of the Site C project has been a topic of much discussion during the election campaign.

Clark said shutting down the project would hurt the province.

READ MORE: BC election 2017: A look at promises made by BC Liberals, BC NDP and BC Green parties

“They (opposition parties) have a reckless scheme that would leave British Columbia families and businesses literally in the dark,” she said.

NDP Leader John Horgan has declined to support or oppose the dam ahead of the May 9 election. He has said a New Democrat government would send the project to the B.C. Utilities Commission for a review on whether it should proceed.

It was once standard practice for BC Hydro projects to be reviewed by the commission, but the Liberals’ clean energy laws have allowed some major projects to bypass the independent regulatory agency.

“I’ve been involved in energy issues for 20 years … and what the public wants is someone other than a Liberal telling them that a 9-, 10-, 11-billion dollar commitment to taxpayers is a good choice,” Horgan said.

WATCH: Christy Clark visits ‘Site C country’

BC Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver has promised to kill the dam, after initially supporting it in 2010.

He has said an environmental assessment completed in 2014 highlighted the permanent damage the project would have on farmland and wildlife.

READ MORE: Full coverage: B.C. election 2017

More than $1 billion has already been spent on Site C but Bakker feels it’s not too late to hit the pause button.

“We view this as a non-partisan, common sense analysis that implies that we should all be doing a sober second thought, given the business case is so much weaker,” she said.

— With files from Jordan Armstrong and The Canadian Press

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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