Site C dam legal challenge heads to court

The projected BC Hydro Site C Dam is pictured in an artist's rendering. BC Hydro handout/The Canadian Press

FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – A land owner in northeastern British Columbia says he stands to lose virtually everything if the provincial government is allowed to move ahead with building a controversial dam in the region.

Ken Boon operates a farm, a campground and a log-home business in an area of the Peace River valley slated to wind up underwater if the Site C hydroelectric project is allowed to continue.

“It would all be wiped out if Site C went ahead,” said Boon, estimating his land loss at roughly 130 hectares. “It would take us out of business.”

On Monday, a regional land owner group headed by Boon will be in court in Vancouver in an effort to derail the $8.8-billion megaproject.

The Peace Valley Landowner Association is asking the B.C. Supreme Court to quash the environmental assessment certificate for the Site C dam, arguing the provincial government failed to properly follow the assessment process.

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“We feel they hijacked the results and issued a certificate that’s not valid,” said Boon, adding that the assessment brought up valid concerns and recommendations which were ignored by the government.

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“Our preference is not to go to court but this was really the only path the government gave us.”

This case is the first of seven legal challenges related to Site C being brought against the B.C. and federal governments from a variety of groups.

On Thursday, Treaty 8 First Nations will be in court challenging the provincial government.

Joe Foy is the national campaign director for the Wilderness Committee, a Vancouver-based environmental organization and ally of the Peace Valley Landowner Association.

Foy argues the loss of wildlife habitat and farmland is not justified by the dam’s construction.

“The government hasn’t proven the need for the project and therefore the project shouldn’t be allowed,” said Foy.

“It’s a heck of a way to waste $9 billion and destroy a lot of land in the process.”

The B.C. government gave the project the green light late last year.

First Nations and environmental groups have denounced the Site C project, forecasting it as the most expensive mistake in the province’s history.

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The land owner association will return to court in July to level similar complaints against the federal government.

If built, Site C would be the third major hydroelectric project on the Peace River.

Upstream are the Peace Canyon Dam, which was finished in 1980, and its precursor, the W.A.C. Bennett Dam, completed in 1967.

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