B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell and Energy Minister Blair Lekstrom are headed north to the W.A.C. Bennett dam today, and are expected to announce that the province will be going ahead with the controversial Peace River Site C hydroelectric dam in the northeast of the province.
The on again off again Site C project was last shuttled onto the back burner back in '05. At that time, the estimated cost of the project was $2 billion. Current estimates are in the range of $5-6.6 billion.
The project is planned to flood over 5,000 hectares of land, including more than 4,000 hectares of agricultural land much of it first class.
This would be the third dam on the Peace River and the furthest downstream, and would be located near Ft. St. John.
The Site C project has been a subject of heated debate. There are the farmland and lifestyle implications. There are also a vast array of related issues that come into play. Is British Columbia self sufficient in power or not? Will a new Peace dam reduce the number of "run of river" projects needed or encourage more of them? The whole issue of run of river projects less than 50MW not being subject to the most stringent environmental monitoring and shoddy workmanship by private contractors. Should B.C. be looking at nuclear like Alberta is?
What about the partial privatization of B.C. Hydro? How is that playing out? Why are politicians in B.C. and Ontario committing to spend vast sums on power at prices far exceeding current KWh market prices?
Is this dam going to benefit Vancouver, or simply provide export dollars for the province, to the detriment of the local population? These are just a few of the questions being asked. One thing for sure - if they are talking about $6.6 billion now - the final cost will be much higher.