On January 28, Hydro filed its EIS with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and the British Columbia Environmental Assessment Office after several public meetings on its draft at the end of 2012. The document included both the Crown Corporation’s perceived benefits of the $7.9 billion dam, as well as its potential adverse impacts and proposed mitigation measures.
During its review, efforts by environmental groups to halt the project continued with several protests, along with the naming of the Peace River as B.C.’s “Most EndangeredRiver” by the Outdoor Recreation Council of British Columbia.
The EIS was deemed “satisfactory” by the government on August 1 and was submitted to the provincial-federal joint review panel on August 2.
In the meantime, the Peace River Regional District signed a Legacy Benefits Agreement with B.C. Hydro in June that would pay $2.4 million a year for 70 years once the proposed dam is operational. Fort St. John would receive approximately 35 per cent of the benefits as the largest urban centre in the region in close proximity to the dam.
After several requests for additional information to support it and a visit to the affected area, the JRP deemed the EIS included sufficient information on November 7. Public hearings were scheduled for December 2013 and January 2014 across the Peace Region, opening in Fort St. John on December 9. The content of sessions has ranged from scientific arguments for or against the project, as well as emotional testimony from residents and First Nations that would be affected.
Once the hearings conclude, the panel will have 90 days to submit its environmental assessment report with recommendations, conclusions and rationale. The federal Minister will then decide how significant adverse environmental effects would be, and whether they would be justified.
Energy Minister Bill Bennett has also been quoted as saying the project will not require a review by the Agricultural Land Commission as it would be redundant.