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Don't rush Site C dam, mayor urges

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Artist's rendering of Site C dam on Peace River. The B.C. government is expected to decide this year whether to start construction in 2015.
— image credit: BC Hydro

The community most affected by the proposed third dam on the Peace River is urging the B.C. government to get more answers before going ahead.

Hudson's Hope Mayor Gwen Johansson made the rounds of Vancouver media this week, backed up by a consultant's report that questions the need for the $8 billion project assessed by a federal-provincial joint review panel this spring.

Energy Minister Bill Bennett has said the cabinet will consider the federal panel's report and decide this fall whether to issue permits to allow construction to begin in 2015.

The report by planning and engineering consultants Urban Systems reinforces many of the doubts expressed by the joint review panel, including the cost of the dam and the alternatives available to meet anticipated power demand.

Those options include upgrading the gas-fired Burrard Thermal generating station in the Lower Mainland. The federal review estimated that upgrade could be done for the $1 billion that BC Hydro would pay in interest on the debt generated by the Site C dam.

Urban Systems looked at other options, including geothermal, solar, new natural gas generation and "microgrids" with distributed power from solar or other small sources.

Johansson said the dam would flood more productive farmland in the Peace River valley, and commit the region to another big power source for 100 years at a time when small, distributed sources are becoming competitive.

"Hudson's Hope has done its bit," Johansson told CBC radio Wednesday. "We have suffered the consequences of the Bennett Dam and Peace Canyon dam. If there are alternatives I think we should have a really close look at them."

The Urban Systems report compares Site C's estimated power cost of $110 per megawatt hour with a new gas cogeneration plant in Calgary that is expected to cost $30 per megawatt hour.

Johansson echoed the joint review panel and NDP leader John Horgan's call for Site C to be reviewed by the B.C. Utilities Commission, to assess its cost estimates and BC Hydro's projections for future electricity demand.

 

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