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Old September 15th, 2005, 07:41 PM   #1
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Controversial C Dam Gets Go Ahead

BC Hydro boosts plans to build Controversial Site C dam
Two senior managers have been assigned to prepare the Peace River project for final approval, a memo shows

Scott Simpson
Vancouver Sun

Thursday, September 15, 2005

BC Hydro is accelerating plans for a controversial $3.5-billion power project that would require flooding a vast area of the Peace River Valley and is assigning two senior managers to prepare the Site C dam project for final approval.

A Sept. 7 internal Hydro memo says the two have been appointed to set the direction for public and first nations consultation, regulatory approvals and communications -- prompting several Site C critics to suggest that Hydro has decided the project will proceed.

The project, to be built near Fort St. John, is supported by Energy Minister Richard Neufeld but has been opposed by area residents and environmentalists since it was first proposed in the mid-1970s.

Potentially B.C.'s fourth-largest hydroelectric facility, it has been rejected in the past as too costly and because of adverse environmental impacts.

At a rough cost of $3.5 billion, not including potential compensation to first nations and the impact of escalating construction costs across North America, it would be one of the most expensive infrastructure projects ever undertaken in B.C.

The dam would join two others already in service on the Peace including the WAC Bennett Dam and Peace Canyon, and would flood an additional area of the Peace Valley 15 times as large as Stanley Park.

It would be a 900-megawatt facility generating enough electricity to serve 500,000 households -- although that's still less power than British Columbia imports each year to serve the province's domestic needs.

The Hydro memo announces that Steve Eckert, acting manager for power acquisitions, has been promoted to acting general manager for Site C. Hydro staffer Al Boldt, who has experience in large project design and construction, has been appointed manager of public and regulator affairs for Site C.

"Steve will provide leadership to take the project through to the approval stage," the memo says.

Hydro spokeswoman Elisha Moreno said Wednesday that despite the appointments, the Site C project won't proceed until -- and unless -- it receives approval from the Hydro board and provincial cabinet.

"We don't want people to think this is a done deal by any account," Moreno said.

However, Hugh Taylor, land use manager for the West Moberly First Nation, noted in an interview that when Richard Neufeld paid a recent visit to the area to study proposals for wind power, "Site C was all he could talk about."

"I think it means they are trying to keep the project going. They will probably hold off formal approval until they are so far down the line that it only makes sense to complete it. I don't think Hydro is being very transparent, and it's prejudicial to wind power proponents," said Taylor.

Ruth Ann Darnall, chairwoman of the Peace Valley Association, said it now appears Hydro intends to proceed with the project.

"I don't understand why Hydro is doing all this if they're not sure cabinet will tell them to go ahead," Darnall said. "I think it would be nice if folks down south could generate their own power."

Brian Churchill, an environmental consultant in Fort St. John, said Hydro appears to be following Neufeld's leadership on Site C.

"I'm really concerned that at this point in time the cost estimates of Site C, are very unclear as to whether this project is in the province's best interests or not. We're missing properly-done cost estimates for building Site C, transmission lines for Site C, and for the environmental and social impacts of Site C," Churchill said.

"I personally don't think the public will support Site C. The Peace River Valley has paid its price in supporting the energy needs of the province . . . in the two existing Hydro dams."

Hydro critic David Austin, who represents independent power producers in B.C., called on Hydro to produce a comprehensive assessment of Site C's costs before taking other steps towards development of the project.

He's not opposed to Site C in principle, but said Hydro is "getting too far ahead of themselves without the release of the basic financial model."

Austin has made formal requests for Site C cost details, in Hydro hearings before the B.C. Utilities Commission, but said he is still waiting for a satisfactory response.

"The project has been around a very long time and the creation and release of a properly functioning financial model should be a very simple exercise," Austin said.


- Current estimated cost of project: $3.5 billion.

- Electricity potential: 900 megawatts, enough for 500,000 homes

- Time required to complete project: Seven years.

- Approvals required: BC Hydro board, B.C. provincial cabinet, B.C. Utilities Commission.

- Jobs created: 7,650 person-years of work.

- Peak workforce: 2,015 people in year four of construction.


Shrum Generating Station/WAC Bennett -- 2,730 megawatts

Revelstoke -- 1,980 megawatts

Mica -- 1,805 megawatts

Peace Canyon -- 694 megawatts

Seven Mile -- 594 megawatts

Site C on Peace River -- 900 megawatts

Source: Vancouver Sun

Ran with fact boxes "The Numbers" and "Capacity of Bc Hydro's Top Five Generating Facilities", which have been appended to the end of the story.
© The Vancouver Sun 2005
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Old October 6th, 2005, 11:06 PM   #2
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Hydro to reveal plans for upgrade
Every concept except nuclear energy examined

Scott Simpson
Vancouver Sun

October 6, 2005

BC Hydro will reveal plans later this month for British Columbia's biggest electricity system upgrade in a generation.

Hydro has been looking at every plausible power option except nuclear energy -- the list includes hydro, wind, gas and coal generation -- in a plan to head off and eventually eliminate B.C.'s dependence on foreign electricity imports.

"This is the next 20 years we are looking at here, and we haven't done anything this significant since maybe 1995," Stephen Bruyneel, director of corporate communications and public affairs for Hydro, said in an interview Wednesday.

"Overlaying all this work is a goal of making British Columbia energy self-sufficient over the next 20 years. We'd like to get to a point where we would be able to rely on our own resources."

The plan may open a Pandora's box.

Electricity production options are set out in a series of briefing papers provided in late September to members of a provincial "integrated electricity planning" committee.

The committee was struck to provide input to Hydro on the best combination of options.

The briefing documents say the cheapest source of power is conservation through energy efficiency projects such as Power Smart.

Hydro ranks the Site C dam No. 1 for lowest cost electricity generation behind conservation -- followed by geothermal, wind, small hydro, coal, and a re-powering of the aging Burrard Thermal gas-fired generating plant in Port Moody.

Bruyneel cautioned that the list is more of a "snapshot" than an authoritative financial study, using numbers provided by industry, and was intended to facilitate discussion.

"They are just preliminary estimates. Obviously until somebody went and bid it into a call you wouldn't know exactly what they were willing to spend on it or how much it's going to cost," Bruyneel said.

Factors complicating those estimates include the future price of natural gas and any surcharges that may apply to greenhouse gas emissions produced by coal- or gas-fired generating plants.

Recent Hydro planning documents examine everything from "controversy" over the proposed $3.5-billion Site C dam on the Peace River to "NIMBYism" in regions of the province that don't produce as much electricity as they consume.

For example, Hydro documents report that there is support around the province for requiring the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island to take a bigger role in new power generation since both are net consumers of electricity.

Alternatively, Hydro suggests that pulling Site C out of a portfolio of new projects could raise the overall cost of energy independence by $200 million and would effectively put responsibility for all new electricity supply into the hands of the private sector.

Bruyneel said a decision by Hydro's board of directors will be announced later this month.

It will likely be a political football, as the final decision on power options rests with the Hydro board and B.C. Energy Minister Richard Neufeld.



Some of the power generation options being examined by BC Hydro:

- Site C Peace River dam

- Repowering Burrard Thermal

- South Meager Geothermal Project

- Pulverized coal

- Wind power

Ran with fact box "Power Play", which has been appended tothe end of the story.
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Old October 7th, 2005, 01:58 AM   #3
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From what I know this site was very close to construction in the social credit days. Most of the land the reservoir would flood has already been assembled and because of this there will be minimal adverse consequences to the local natives. Hopefully they at least log the reservoir unlike Wiliston lake. I have heard of people almost getting killed from trees shooting up like rockets. This will be good for BC. Would the environmentalists rather have this or some coal plants in the fraser valley. The days of large scale hydroelectric projects is pretty much over in BC due to excessive red tape imposed by the former NDP government and pressure from Special interest groups. Hopefully it gets built.
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Old October 7th, 2005, 10:35 AM   #4
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Why do people think a dam is bad for the environment? It only effects a small area, a gas power plant pollutes the whole planet.
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Old October 7th, 2005, 10:40 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by crazyjoeda
Why do people think a dam is bad for the environment? It only effects [sic] a small area, a [sic] gas power plant pollutes the whole planet.
Because a gas powerplant affects the whole earth a little; a dam affects a small area a great deal. I like the idea of the Gas; it ruins other peoples' shit while keeping ours relatively less ruined. And who wouldn't want it to be a bit warmer around here. Then again, a new lake might be nice.
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Old October 9th, 2005, 08:52 AM   #6
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Interesting, hard to believe someone is actually building a big dam somewhere in North America these days!

Anyone have a map of where it'll go?
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Old October 9th, 2005, 10:31 PM   #7
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The last dam built in BC was the Revelstoke dam in 1984 as part of the Columbia River system.

A roughly $2.5 billion Site C dam in northeastern BC has been bandied about from the early 1980's, IIRC, to its demise as a potential power source circa 1990.

In terms of the Kyoto Accord as well as zero input costs (as opposed to a gas-fired plant), the dam would provide abundant clean energy at minimal operating costs over a long period.

The Peace River system in NE BC already has two dams so it is not a wild-flowing river.

OTOH, environmental arguments against it include drowning a large aea with the new reservoir, which includes wildlife habitat and breeding grounds, possible climatic changes, impact upon the Athabaska Delta in Alberta, First Nations concerns, etc.

All in all, I still think the long term benefits outweigh any potential costs.
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Old June 19th, 2006, 09:15 AM   #8
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I grew up in the area and know it very well. I even know some of the people mentioned in the article.

Amazed to see it revived.

The area is an area where we used to go camoping etc. Many landslides along that area in the years. The highway caved in a lot and slid away so much a new route had to be built entirely.

Not too sure what to think really.
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