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A view of the Itumbiara hydroelectric dam in central Brazil, Jan. 9, 2013, with the floodgates closed. The dam is running at only 9 per cent of capacity due to low water levels caused by one of the worst droughts in Brazil’s history. The country’s energy demand is expected to grow another 50 per cent by 2020.

UESLEI MARCELINO/Reuters

BC Hydro says its proposed $7.9-billion Site C hydroelectric dam in northeastern British Columbia will flood agricultural land and force some landowners off their property, but overall the project should proceed because it's in the best interests of the province.

The Crown-owned public utility submitted its environmental impact statement Monday to federal and provincial review bodies that must now conduct a joint environmental review process that includes public hearings and will be followed by a decision on the future of the project, likely sometime next year.

The massive, five-volume, 40-section submission to the federal Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and the provincial British Columbia Environmental Assessment Office is the result of five years of studying the potential effects of the dam and proposed measures to avoid or mitigate the impacts.

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"On the balance of it all, we believe that even looking at the things that can't be mitigated, that the project should move forward because it's in the best interest, we believe, for the province of British Columbia," said David Conway, Hydro's Site C community relations spokesman, who was in Fort St. John for the announcement.

Hydro's Site C Clean Energy Project would be the third dam and hydroelectric generating station on the Peace River in B.C.'s northeast. The utility's energy forecasts indicate customer demand for electricity is expected to increase by about 40 per cent over the next 20 years, with Site C projected to supply enough energy to power 465,000 homes for 100 years.

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