Site C dam clean energy project to go ahead

WATCH: Premier Christy Clark has given her government’s green light to the controversial Site C dam. Keith Baldrey reports on what the mega-project will mean to the province.

VICTORIA – B.C. Premier Christy Clark has announced the Site C dam clean energy project will be built in B.C.

“It will not be built in a day, it will not be built in a year,” says Clark, but the project will go ahead. “Affordable, reliable, clean electricity is the backbone of British Columbia’s economy. Site C will support our quality of life for decades to come and will enable continued investment and a growing economy.”

WATCH: Premier Christy Clark announces the approval of the Site C dam Tuesday afternoon at a press conference

Construction is set to begin in Summer 2015, with a budget of $8.77 billion, and a contingency fund of $1 billion. It is also expected to create 10,000 direct construction jobs.

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READ MORE: Everything you need to know about the Site C project

The government says the demand for power is expected to increase by 40 per cent over the next 20 years, and Site C will be required even with BC Hydro’s Power Smart programs.

“British Columbia has the third-lowest electricity rates in North America and we need to meet our future needs in a way that keeps rates down,” says Bill Bennett, Minister of Energy and Mines. “It’s clear that to keep rates low, we must choose the option of building Site C.”

READ MORE: Site C received environmental clearance in October

The dam will be the third on the Peace River, flooding 5,550 hectares of land over an 83-kilometre stretch of valley.

Crown-owned utility BC Hydro says Site C would generate an estimated 1,100 megawatts of capacity, or enough to power the equivalent of 450,000 homes a year. Clark says the project “will provide clean, reliable power for more than 100 years.”

Last May, a joint federal-provincial environmental assessment panel made no clear recommendation for or against the project, but First Nations and environmental groups say they will fight the proposal in the courts and through public protests.

“Today’s announcement is a historic milestone and we look forward to building this important provincial project,” says Susan Yurkovich, executive vice-president responsible for Site C, in a press release. “We will continue to work with First Nations, communities and landowners to ensure that we deliver on our commitments and realize the many benefits of this project.”

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READ MORE: First Nation issues BC gov’t Site C dam ultimatum

A look at what was said about the B.C. government’s decision to proceed with the controversial $8.8 billion Site C hydroelectric dam.

B.C. Premier Christy Clark: “In the life of any province, there are moments where each of us has an opportunity, a responsibility, to make big decisions, ones that are going to matter, in this case, for a century. And today is that day.”

Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs Grand Chief Stewart Phillip: “This is an ill-advised and incredibly stupid decision the province has made regarding the Site C Project. ”

Opposition New Democrat Leader John Horgan: “This is a $9 billion gamble from a premier who we can’t take her word … I’m not convinced we’ve seen the final number on this.”

BC Hydro CEO Jessica McDonald: “This project will build on the success of our existing hydroelectric system and benefit British Columbians for generations to come.”

Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett: “It’s clear that to keep rates low, we must choose the option of building Site C.”

WATCH: Forces both for and against the Site C dam are already preparing for a fight.  Jeremy Hunka reports. 

Sierra Club B.C.’s Ana Simeon: “Sierra Club BC is extremely disappointed at the B.C. government’s decision to proceed with the proposed Site C dam, despite vehement opposition from Treaty 8 First Nations, local landowners, and the findings of the joint review panel.”

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Clean Energy B.C. executive director Paul Kariya: “We’re disappointed, of course, that our industry was not chosen as an alternative to Site C — we have shown that we are a valid and cost-effective alternative, and a big creator of jobs for British Columbians.”

Wilderness B.C. national campaign director Joe Foy: “The Site C dam project is so damaging to the environment and wasteful of taxpayers funds that it’s beyond me how any government could come out in favour of building it — but they have.”

B.C. Chamber of Commerce president and CEO John Winter: “By committing to building Site C, government is investing in B.C.’s continued access to the energy we need to take B.C. forward.”

First Nations Summit political executive Robert Phillips: “B.C. and Canada have chosen to completely ignore their constitutional duty to consult and accommodate Treaty 8 First Nations prior to making this decision.”

B.C. LNG Alliance president David Keane: “Today’s Site C announcement reinforces the need for all levels of government, First Nations, and labour to work closely together so we can ensure British Columbia has the skilled labour force it needs to seize all of the opportunities before it.”

~ with files from Canadian Press

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