The British Columbia government is forging ahead with building the controversial Site C dam project, a decision that is leaving ranchers and farmers along the construction route disappointed.
Premier John Horgan announced Dec. 11 that the government will continue to construct Site C, a $10.7-billion project located on the Peace River near Fort St. John, B.C.
Farmers and ranchers along the construction route are being forced to leave because once the dam is complete, it will divert the river and flood farmland.
The project was initially started by the previous Liberal government but, when the NDP took power, Horgan promised he would get the B.C. Utilities Commission to review the project’s viability.
Upon reviewing the commission’s findings, Horgan said during a news conference that B.C. had no choice but to go ahead with the project. If the government chose to stop it and remediate the land, it would have cost $4 billion.
— John Horgan (@jjhorgan) December 11, 2017
“This is not a project we favour or one we would have started, but we’re three years in,” Horgan said. “But we have to make a decision. It’s not an easy one, but we have to focus on the future and deliver.”
But producers who are losing their homes and land because of the project say the government should have walked away from Site C.
Ken Boon, president of the Peace Valley Landowners Association, said B.C. doesn’t need this new power source right away, arguing the government could have installed renewable energy sources like solar, geothermal or wind in the future.
“We’re devastated,” said Boon, who farms near Fort St. John. “To flood the only Class 1 farmland for power that we don’t need right now is unfortunate. Constructing dams is becoming more costly and renewables are only getting cheaper.”
Those in favour of the dam have argued the project is necessary because it will help bring utility rates down and ensure construction jobs aren’t lost.
Horgan said it was tough weighing both sides of the debate, but argued he had to do what was best for the province.
He said if the dam project was killed, average electricity rates would go up by $198 per year and debt would skyrocket, which would make it more challenging for the government to borrow and build new schools or hospitals.
The dam, which has yet to face another court challenge, has been slated to be complete by 2024. It’s estimated it will produce enough power for 450,000 homes.