Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Landowner Group in Court to Challenge Province's Approval of B.C.'S Site C Dam

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Landowner Group in Court to Challenge Province's Approval of B.C.'S Site C Dam

Article excerpt

Landowners argue province fumbled Site C approval

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VANCOUVER - A group of landowners in northeastern B.C. whose property is threatened by the Site C dam is accusing the provincial government of breaking the law by approving the controversial hydroelectric megaproject, a court has heard.

Maegen Giltrow, lawyer for the Peace Valley Landowner Association, told the B.C. Supreme Court on Monday that the province erred by failing to consider all the recommendations put forward by a joint review panel assessing the dam's environmental impact.

The B.C. and federal governments granted environmental approval for the $8.8-billion project in October last year, signing off on nearly all of the 30 recommendations made by the provincial Environmental Assessment Office in its approval certificate.

But Giltrow said the panel actually made 50 recommendations, 20 of those were deemed to fall outside the scope of the review panel's mandate.

"If the panel has recommendations that go to the questions that were put toward it, the panel must include those recommendations and the minister must consider those recommendations," she said.

"The evidence is that the executive director (of the Environmental Assessment Office) advised the minister that these are not recommendations that the panel is allowed to make."

Responding to the court case Monday, Energy Minister Bill Bennett described the province's assessment process for Site C as "very thorough" and that he remained confident shovels would be in the ground by the summer.

Still, he admitted the possibility of an unexpected result.

"Any time an issue goes to court anything can happen," he said. "We'll just have to wait and see."

The B.C. cabinet gave final approval last December for the dam that would flood an estimated 5,500 hectares of land to create an 83-kilometre-long reservoir on the Peace River. …

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