The $8.8 billion Site C Dam slated to be built in BC’s Peace River Valley has been given federal permits to continue construction and the BC government is touting the project as the answer to providing British Columbians with the most affordable, reliable power for over 100 years.
“Affordable, reliable, clean electricity is the backbone of British Columbia’s economy. Site C will support our quality of life for decades to come and will enable continued investment and a growing economy. ~ Premier Christy Clark
The BC Liberals (who are actually Conservatives) say that BC’s population and economy are growing and the demand for power is expected to increase by 40% over the next 20 years. The Liberals also state that over the first 50 years of Site C’s project life, ratepayers will save an average of $650 to $900 million each year, which they conclude is an average savings of 6-8% per typical household.
If you look closely at BC Hydro demand, BC Hydro is forecasting a revised estimate of $3.5 billion less revenue over the next ten years. This lower demand comes from two warm winters and downturns in mining and forest products, as well as consumers buying more efficient appliances and installing LED bulbs through BC Hydro’s own incentive programs.
Not withstanding the environmental concerns over flooding of a agricultural river valley, the displacement of people and homes and the indigenous groups and their land claims. The indigenous people in the area have been there for more than 10,000 years and rely on the valley to fish, hunt, trap and harvest. There is also a clause in the NAFTA agreement that relates to water.
When water is free flowing in rivers and streams, the water is not included in any free trade agreement between Canada and the US. Build a dam and this pooled water now becomes a commodity. With the trajectory of BC Hydro debt increasing and the eventual call for this quasi public utility to go private, American investors will jump at the chance to export BC water to the water impoverished areas of the USA. The area of the Peace River is also smack dab in the middle of proposed continental water management schemes such as North American Water and Power Alliance (NAWAPA), Kupier and Grand Prairie Agreement. Some see this Site C dam as a step towards seeing one or all of those agreements come to fruition sometime in the near future.
So once the dam is built is it more about electricity for British Columbians or more about water sales and lining the pockets of all the companies that benefit for a mega project?
As Petr Pospisil says in his article in Vancouver 24 hours,
“One thing is certain, violating treaty and private property rights to flood valuable farmland — subsidizing cheap power for export — all while increasing our costs and potentially bankrupting our public utility, is not putting ‘British Columbians first’.” ~ Petr Pospisil – Site C dam a costly boondoggle