Canadian professors and Royal Society of Canada speak out against Site C mega dam

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Artist rendering of the Site C dam project. Photo via BC Hydro.

More than 250 university professors from across Canada, including legal scholars, political scientists, water scientists, and environmental scientists, released a statement of concern on May 24, 2016, regarding Site C, a hydroelectric dam on the Peace River in northeastern British Columbia. A letter supporting the concerns raised by this group has been issued by the President of the Royal Society of Canada.

Site C is a 1,100 megawatt hydroelectric generating station on the Peace River in northeast B.C. The project received approval from the provincial government in December 2014 and construction began in the summer of 2015. The dam is estimated to be completed by 2024.

The President of the Royal Society noted: “It is troubling that the Site C Project is proceeding even though there are outstanding court cases on First Nations treaty and Aboriginal rights issues which have not yet been resolved. Past projects often neglected or ignored Aboriginal peoples and their concerns–with adverse and lingering consequences. Those days are supposed to be over.”

The statement of concern also noted that it was “particularly troubling that the assessment process did not comprehensively assess cumulative environmental effects and impacts.” The researchers found that the number and scope of significant adverse environmental effects arising from the Site C Project are unprecedented in the history of environmental assessment in Canada.

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They called upon both governments to explain why the unprecedented imposition of these effects would be justified by Site C, whose electricity output is presently unnecessary and for which less expensive and less damaging alternatives exist.

The researchers also concluded that there was a lack of evidence-based decision-making with scientific integrity. They expressed strong concern about the review process, noting that the Site C project was entirely exempted from any review by the BC Utilities Commission, and that the regulatory review was limited to an environmental assessment Joint Review Panel conducted over a compressed nine-month period by a three-person panel.

“It’s rare that scientists speak out collectively about controversial topics. Many of us had come to our own conclusions about Site C. Once we began doing research and consulting with each other, we realized that we needed to speak publicly,” said Dr. Karen Bakker, Director of the Program on Water Governance at the University of British Columbia.

The statement can be read at: www.sitecstatement.org

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