B.C.’s Environmental Assessment Office has issued two new enforcement orders for Site C, an 1,100-megawatt hydroelectric project under construction on the Peace River.
It has also posted an inspection record that found several issues of non-compliance related to erosion and water management.
One of the new orders, dated Dec. 22, found Site C proponent BC Hydro was not complying with two conditions of its provincially issued environmental-assessment certificate related to protecting amphibians.
The other order, also dated Dec. 22, found BC Hydro was not meeting a condition that requires water quality in potentially affected wells to be monitored twice a year, for a period of 10 years, from the outset of construction.
BC Hydro says it is taking steps to comply with both orders.
“The environmental approvals of Site C came with more than 150 legally binding federal and provincial conditions,” BC Hydro spokesman Craig Fitzsimmons said Friday in an e-mail.
“We take these conditions very seriously. That’s why we are working with our contractors and the Environmental Assessment Office to ensure we are in compliance.”
In one order, the EAO says B.C. Hydro recently built an access road – called the Portage Mountain access road – but didn’t conduct surveys or install “amphibian mitigation structures” as required under its certificate.
The EAO order requires BC Hydro to come up with a plan to conduct amphibian surveys in the area by Feb. 15, 2017, and determine what, if any, mitigation measures would be required.
In the order related to well monitoring, the EAO says, “No well monitoring as required by Condition 56 was conducted between the commencement of construction in July of 2015 and October of 2016,” the EAO order says.
The order goes on to say that BC Hydro provided evidence that it began monitoring wells in October of 2016.
The order requires BC Hydro to provide a list of all attempts to notify potential water well owners within one kilometre of the reservoir and a list of all wells being monitored by Jan. 16, 2017.
BC Hydro says its well-monitoring efforts date back to early 2015, when it placed ads in local papers asking interested well owners to participate.
“No responses were received, so BC Hydro decided to conduct groundwater sampling that would be representative of the water quality of surrounding wells,” Mr. Fitzsimmons said.
Sampling took place in June, September and December of 2015, but the EAO found those steps insufficient and that B.C. Hydro needed to do more to contact well owners.
After another round of advertising, as well as letters and phone calls, B.C. Hydro had a list of well owners agreeing to participate in the program and sampling began in October.
According to the provincial environmental certificate for the project, B.C. Hydro “must ensure that wells affected by changes to groundwater levels within one kilometre of the reservoir of Peace River continue to function as reliable and safe sources of water for human consumption by monitoring potentially affected wells, with the approval of potentially affected well owners, for significant long-term well-quality issues.”
The two December orders from the EAO are part of the construction process for Site C, which the province approved in 2014 with 77 conditions, including a $20-million fund to compensate for agricultural lands that will be flooded by the project.
Also in December, the EAO posted an inspection record for the project. That record, based on a routine inspection carried out in late August and early September, found BC Hydro in non-compliance with several conditions, including ones related to water management and erosion.
BC Hydro bills Site C as a clean energy project that, once completed, will provide renewable, cost-effective electricity for a century or more at an estimated cost of $8.8-billion. The projected completion date is 2024.
Critics say there are less expensive, less disruptive ways to generate additional electricity in the province and worry Site C will end up costing far more than its projected price tag.
To date, attempts to block the project through the courts have failed.
In a December fact sheet on Site C, BC Hydro notes five judicial reviews of environmental approvals and Site C permits have been dismissed. Three of those court actions were heard in the Supreme Court of B.C., and two in the Federal Court of Canada.
In a Dec. 21 progress report, BC Hydro said Site C was “progressing on schedule and on budget” and that spending on the project hit $1.3-billion as of Sept. 30, 2016.Report Typo/Error