Dam opponents urge Premier Clark to heed calls of Metro Vancouver

BC Hydro has the necessary permits in hand to begin the first phases of work on the $8.8-billion Site C dam, but opponents say those approvals ignore recent calls by politicians representing half of BC’s population to shelve the project and study it further.

Last Friday, politicians with the Greater Vancouver Regional District voted overwhelmingly to line up behind dam opponents, and joined the call for a two-year moratorium on construction, and to send the dam for reviews by both the BC Utilities Commission and the Agricultural Land Commission.

The district represents 23 different local governments in the Lower Mainland, and about 2.5 million people.

Rob Botterell is general counsel to the Peace Valley Landowners Association.

“BC Hydro did various forecasts of the Site C dam economics, and in the early years of Site C, they’ll have a surplus of power they’ll have to sell on the export market at a loss,” said Botterell.

Previous media reports have suggested that Hydro will lose up to $800 million in the first four years of operation because of its surplus power.

“When you factor that in with the cost of getting started, what you find is that BC ratepayers would be saved $200 million if BC Hydro delayed the start of construction by two years,” Botterell said.

Calling that the financially prudent thing to do, Mr. Boterell says the permitting decision shows the provincial government’s disdain for BC ratepayers.

Several municipalities in the province have already supported the call for a moratorium on the project, including Richmond and Cumberland.

PVLA President Ken Boon — who stands to lose about half of the 620 acres of farmland he and his wife, Arlene, own along the river — said it’s incumbent on Premier Christy Clark to heed that call.

Boon says the province must also consider worsening drought conditions in California that will threaten BC’s food security, and respect First Nations court challenges of the project.

“The Premier has new information – it’s her decision now,” Boon said in a statement released today.

“I know what I would do – act in the best interests of British Columbians by ordering a two-year moratorium and independent review.”

Calls to Site C spokespeople have not been returned, nor have calls to Treaty 8 representatives.

Meantime, the PVLA and Treaty 8 First Nations continue their preparations for a new series of project legal challenges in Federal Court beginning on July 20.

We asked Mr. Botterell if the recent BC Supreme Court ruling dismissing a PVLA request to quash the environmental assessment certificate for the project has resulted in any tweaking of the federal court argument

“No,” Botterell said.

“There’s six court cases underway between the First Nations and the PVLA, and they each have their own legal basis.

“It will be a different judge, so we’ll pursue on behalf of PVLA that case as well.”

The PVLA is still considering whether to appeal the BC Supreme Court ruling, but BC Hydro has said it will not allow legal action to impact its construction schedule.

— with files from Matt Preprost