Permits approved for Site C

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

The Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations has announced the approval of 24 permits for the Site C dam, giving the greenlight for work to begin on the first phases of the project, which could begin any day.

The ministry announced permits were authorized under several different statutes, including the provincial Land Act, the Forest Act, the Water Act, and the Wildlife Act — allowing for timber removal, road building and site preparation works.

In a release, the ministry says the authorizations will allow work to begin on the dam, a date that has been in flux for months since the province confirmed it was proceeding with the project last winter.

According to a ministry spokesman, there are still six permit applications awaiting decisions under the Mines and Heritage Conservation Act.

Another 10 applications under various statutes have been deferred to allow for more time for consultations with First Nations, the spokesman said.

Media reports last month suggested BC Hydro was facing delays in receiving the permits due to Treaty 8 First Nations who were conducting an independent review of the permit applications.

The ministry says permit applications were reviewed for impacts on the environment and aboriginal treaty rights. The ministry says consultation with Treaty 8 concluded last month.

Hydro has already awarded contracts for crew housing along the banks of the river, along with a land clearing contract to clear some 700 hectares of trees and vegetation in the dam’s proposed flood zone.

Hydro wants the river banks cleared as soon as possible so construction of temporary coffer dams can take place to divert the river. That work can apparently only take place between August and September.

It will be some time before the actual structure of the dam itself is built.

A ministry spokesman, along with Treaty 8 officials, were not immediately available for comment.

Calls to BC Hydro earlier today have not been returned.

This is a developing story, and will be updated as information becomes available.