Local governments, BC Hydro still working on agreements over dam construction

The location of the Site C dam in proximity to Fort St. John and Taylor.

The ink may have dried on the new Peace River Agreement, but some local municipalities still have yet to sign deals with BC Hydro over construction of the Site C dam.

Fort St. John, Hudson’s Hope, and the Peace River Regional District all say they remain in negotiations with Hydro over their respective community agreements, which will outline benefits and compensation each will receive to offset the impacts caused by the dam.

None could say whether those agreements would be finalized before Hydro looks to start preliminary land clearing and camp construction this summer.

Hydro has, however, indicated it has reached an agreement in principle with Fort St. John over the compensation that will flow to the city to mitigate the host of social and economic impacts that will hit the city if and when construction hits full strength.

“There’s no deadline. We’re working towards it (being finalized),” said Conway, noting that reaching agreements with impacted municipalities is not required as part of its certification to build the dam.

“Community agreements are something we’re working towards because we think it’s a right thing to do, not because we have to it.”

FSJ pushing for ‘robust agreement,’ mayor says

Conway would not divulge details of the agreement with Fort St. John.

At a Site C public hearing in January 2014, Mayor Lori Ackerman told a joint review panel Hydro had tabled a “final offer” to the city to the tune of $1 million per yer during the dam’s construction, worth a total of about $8 million.
Ackerman told the panel the offer was based on taxes that would be payable on the 85th Avenue lands that will be dug up to build the earth-filled dam, and the north camp.

Ackerman called the deal “arbitrary” at the time, and that it did not address the full impacts to the city.

“We have made a commitment to our community that we would protect their interests, and that we would ensure that the city was not exposed to new and additional costs, reductions in service, revenue losses, or new expenditures due to the Site C project proceeding,” she told the panel then.

City Manager Dianne Hunter said Hydro’s financial offer remains the same.

“There are still a number of outstanding issue which we hope will be resolved to the City’s satisfaction,” she wrote in an email.

“It is difficult to state when this agreement will be finalized.”

Ackerman said this week that negotiations continue.

“We’re pushing for a robust agreement. It’s not just about the money,” she said.

“Like the Peace River Agreement, we see the value of a commitment to do some joint planning around shared infrastructure, healthcare, education, and (policing) is probably more valuable to us as a foundation to the community.”

Negotiations with Hudson’s Hope, PRRD continue

In an email, Hudson’s Hope Mayor Gwen Johansson said the district and Hydro remain in negotiations.

She called the issues facing the district as “complex,” noting it stands to lose at least 1,700 hectares of land due to flooding, highway realignment, and statutory right of ways, all of which eat away at the district’s ability to build and maintain waterfront properties for homes and businesses.

Hydro has previously said in public hearings it will make local road improvements in the district, spend $150,000 to upgrade Alwin Holland Memorial park, build a shoreline berm along the river to protect several downtown properties from erosion and sloughing from the new reservoir, and will help relocate and rebuild the district’s water intake station, which will be flooded.

“The above provide(s) just a taste of the issues Hudson’s Hope is having to deal with should this project proceed,” Johansson wrote. “So it is not surprising that it is taking considerable time.”

Chris Cvik, chief administrative officer with the PRRD, said the district has a draft agreement in place with Hydro, but that negotiations continue. The agreement keys in on electoral areas B, C, D, and E, though Cvik noted they are working to ensure the entire regional district benefits from the agreement, especially for unforeseen impacts that might arise during life of the project.

Cvik could not put a timeline on when an agreement would be finalized.

The agreement would be separate from the so-called legacy agreement the PRRD has already signed with Hydro. That would provide $2.4 million a year, indexed to inflation, over 70 years, once the dam becomes operational.

Agreements with Chetwynd, Taylor already in place

Both Chetwynd and Taylor have signed community agreements with Hydro.

The deal for Taylor includes $85,000 for a water supply monitoring program; $50,000 to update the district’s emergency preparedness and response plan; $20,000 to support its role in road rescue services during project construction; street lighting along Highway 97 through Taylor; and funding to develop 20 new serviced RV lots at Peace Island Park.

The deal for Chetwynd includes $50,000 to develop recreation sites between Chetwynd and Site C’s reservoir at the south bank, where Hydro will also build a viewpoint open to the public during and after construction; and a one-time $20,000 donation to emergency rescue services during construction.

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