On Tuesday, December 16, the B.C. government announced its official approval of the $8.7 billion Site C dam, which will flood a large portion of the Peace River Valley.
Although the massive hydroelectric project will generate only eight per cent of the province’s total electricity needs according to the province, East Kootenay MLA and Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett still cites the dam as a vital part of the overall energy plan.
“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,” said Bennett. “It’s clear that to keep rates low, we must choose the option of building Site C.”
Bennett also explained that the province is expected to see a population surge of one million in the next 20 years, escalating the province’s electricity demand by 40 per cent.
Premier Christy Clark also stands by the decision.
“Affordable, reliable, clean electricity is the backbone of British Columbia’s economy,” said Clark following the decision announcement on Tuesday. “Site C will support our quality of life for decades to come and will enable continued investment and a growing economy.”
According to the province, the dam will provide 450,000 homes with low cost energy and will provide $650 to $900 million in ratepayer savings.
The dam itself will be the third in the Peace River area and will flood an 83 km stretch of the area that includes 30 homes, farms and First Nations land.
Unsurprisingly, First Nations groups and environmentalists alike oppose the construction.
Grand Chief Stewart Philip called the decision “incredibly short-sighted and stupid.”
“It’s not about the money,” continued Philip, “it’s about the environment, it’s about the land — about constitutional rights, treaty rights and so on and so forth. It’s about a way of life.”
The Treaty 8 First Nations, many of whom were displaced in the construction of the W.A.C. Bennett in the 60s, have stated they will fight the construction of the Site C Dam.
A summit was held for First Nations, representing a majority of the province’s First Nations and Tribal Councils population. The summit criticized the approval, as the dam will ultimately flood the traditional areas of Treaty 8 land.