VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – It’s one of the biggest infrastructure projects in BC history — and today construction has been given the green light from the provincial government.
Permits have been granted for the $9-billion Site C Dam despite seven legal challenges attempting to halt it.
First nations and special interest groups in Northern BC especially have been relentless in their opposition to the project.
But Minister of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations, Steve Thomson, says 24 construction permits have been issued after careful consideration.
“We’re confident that the adequate consultation has been done,” Thomson says. “We want to move this project forward given the benefit for British Columbia — the 10,000 jobs that this project is going to provide for British Columbia and the future energy need.”
Thomson points out Treaty 8 First Nations have been involved in consultations on the project since August 2014.
He says the project will boost the province’s energy supply by eight per cent — enough to power about 450-thousand homes per year.
“This is a very, very important project for British Columbia,” Thomson reiterated.
BC Hydro says it doesn’t know when construction will begin. In a statement, the utility says it has just received the initial permits required to start some activities on Site C construction.
Hydro says it is confirming all environmental assessment conditions are met, and once a date is chosen, communities and First Nations will be notified before starting any work.
BC Hydro has also released an Abacus Data poll today suggesting support for the project is very high.
The utility’s Simi Heer says 81 per cent of people polled across the province think it’s a good idea.
“There does seem to be an existing level of support for hydro-electricity in BC and hydro dams have proven to be a success in our province for many, many years,” she says. “This may have influenced strong support levels for Site C as well.”
More than a quarter of people who live in the Peace River country, though, where the dam is to be built near Fort St. John, are categorically against it.
Hundreds of canoers and kayakers have planned a float-in Saturday on the Peace River to protest the project’s potential impact on the environment and agriculture.
The provincial government says six applications under the Mines and Heritage Conservation Act are still pending decisions, and further consultation with First Nations will happen through September.