Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Cancel Anytime
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

A model of the proposed Stie C dam at the Community Consultation Office in Fort St. John on January 16, 2013.

Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

An environmental review of the proposed Site C hydroelectric dam has found BC Hydro has not made its case for the $8-billion megaproject that the Crown corporation has been trying to build for 35 years, and established a series of hurdles that the federal and provincial governments must now tackle.

The Joint Review Panel concluded that the province will need more power, and that the Site C dam appears to be the most economic solution with the smallest output of greenhouse-gas emissions.

But the panel, without saying yes or no to the proposal, concluded it cannot measure the true cost of the project nor the likely need. It recommends that if the federal and provincial governments choose to move ahead despite significant environmental impacts, further independent review on BC Hydro's cost estimates, energy demand forecasts and conservation plan are needed. "The proponent has not fully demonstrated the need for the project on the timetable set forth."

Story continues below advertisement

As well, the panel concludes the project would result in serious adverse effects on the traditional hunting, fishing and other land uses of First Nations.

B.C. Energy Minister Bill Bennett believes the panel was "reasonably impressed" with the case for Site C, and swiftly dismissed the call for further review by the B.C. Utilities Commission.

"We don't need the electricity today or tomorrow, or next year," he told reporters, "but we are pretty darn sure we are going to need it 10 years from now."

The report does not decide the fate of the proposal for a third dam on the Peace River – the federal and provincial cabinets will have the final say, and both must agree to issue a permit before BC Hydro, which has tried twice before to build Site C, can move forward.

By creating an 83-kilometre reservoir on the Peace River, the dam "would cause significant adverse effects on fish and fish habitat, and a number of birds and bats … rare plants, and sensitive ecosystems," concludes the three-member panel led by Harry Swain.

Even if government accepts that loss, the panel raised questions about whether BC Hydro has really explored other options. Alternative energy, including geothermal potential, has been glossed over and the potential for conservation has likely been underestimated. "Energy conservation and end-user efficiencies have not been pressed as hard as possible in BC Hydro's analysis."

Mr. Bennett said his government will now need to consult with First Nations at the same time that it weighs the findings over the next six months.

Story continues below advertisement

However, he said the final hurdle will be decided by his government alone – whether to approve, in the end, the investment of at least $8-billion.

Energy lawyer David Austin said the negative impact on First Nations will likely prove to be the most daunting challenge ahead – even if the two levels of government accept the risks outlined in the 471-page report, the project will face strong legal challenges based on those findings.

"Site C is going nowhere in a hurry, if ever, at all," he said. "That's the killer, it's a ticket for the First Nations to the Supreme Court of Canada."

Treaty 8 Tribal Chief Liz Logan, whose band stands to be profoundly affected by the project given the flooding of 5,000 hectares in the Peace Valley, said she was pleased the panel did not accept BC Hydro's case for Site C at face value.

Although there is no clear yes or no in the panel's 50 recommendations, she said she was pleased the panel had raised questions about the need for the project – echoing First Nation concerns. "We have always said, 'Let's look at alternatives,'" she said in an interview. "I am somewhat happy today."

A spokesperson for BC Hydro said credible scenarios suggest the province will need the power from Site C.

Story continues below advertisement

"It's not an exact science. You can't forecast this on the head of a pin," David Conway said. "We review the load forecasts on a regular basis. We update them yearly. And we try to account for things that could impact the load forecast up or down, looking at those variables and how things are occurring."

Environmentalist Andrea Morrison of Fort St. John – a city destined to be affected by any construction of Site C – said the apparent ambivalence of the report to the project will help critics. "It helps to make a case against the project," said Ms. Morrison, co-ordinator of the Peace Valley Environment Association. "That's good for us and all British Columbians. We don't need this project."

Mark Jaccard, a former chair of the B.C. Utilities Commission now a professor at the School of Resource and Environmental Management at Simon Fraser University, said he appreciated that the report canvassed a number of relevant issues, but that the executive summary of the document seemed "waffling" in not drawing blunt, emphatic conclusions.

He said he was hard-pressed to speculate what the report will mean for the fate of Site C. "I have no evidence of how various political parties and broad sections of the public will react to this," he said.

Go here for the full report from the Joint Review Panel (PDF), or cast your vote on whether you support the project.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the authors of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies