The BC Hydro Ratepayers Association has filed for a Judicial Review of a fisheries permit related to the controversial Site C dam, arguing that the impact of the megaproject on the environment and on First Nations rights was not adequately justified before the permit was granted.
The permit or “Authorization”, issued in late August by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, “authorizes BC Hydro to conduct specified works and activities likely to result in serious harm to fish.”
Environmental assessments of the Site C dam predict the project will cause the extinction of local populations of Arctic Grayling, a 90 per cent reduction in the population of Mountain Whitefish, and substantial reductions in populations of already threatened Bull Trout.
The West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations allege that the dam infringes on their treaty rights and are currently awaiting a ruling from the Federal Court of Appeal, hoping that the court will halt construction on the project.
In the meantime, opponents of the dam argue that the effects of ongoing construction on local fisheries will have major consequences for First Nations groups who rely on those fisheries in order to maintain their traditional lifestyles and food source.
“BC Hydro has deliberately dismissed its legal duty to adequately consult the Treaty 8 people on the future well-being and sustainability of resident fish stocks such as Arctic Grayling, Mountain Whitefish and Bull Trout,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, in response to the filing.
“Congratulations and kudos to the BC Hydro Ratepayers Association for standing up to the ongoing arrogant, unilateralist actions on the part of BC Hydro.”
In their filing, the Ratepayers Association, a province-wide federation of electricity consumers, also questioned the justification for the $8.8 billion project in the light of expert testimony that the power from the Site C dam is not required to meet British Columbia's energy needs.
The filing comes on the heels of calls from environmentalists, First Nations, and landowners groups asking Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to halt construction of the dam pending the resolution of the court cases and a thorough review of the project by the BC Utilities Commission.
“By issuing the Federal permits required for the main civil works contract on the Site C Dam, Trudeau has propped up a very controversial project that is widely viewed as not in the public interest nor needed at all,” Ken Boon, President of the Peace Valley Landowner Association and one of the farmers who is facing eviction on Christmas Day if Site C construction continues as scheduled, argued on Wednesday.
“Due to the Joint Review Panel recommendations, the failure of Christy Clark to send [the project] to the BC Utilities Commission, and the ongoing legal challenges to the project, the public interest has clearly not been established.”