BC Hydro is seeking an injunction against protesters at its Site C dam project, claiming they have been preventing contractors from completing their work on the south bank of the Peace River since Jan. 4. 

In a petition filed in B.C. Supreme Court, Hydro asks for an injunction to prevent protesters from impeding work on the site and from threatening or intimidating contractors. The utility is also asking for punitive as well as general damages and costs. 

"We respect the right of individuals to express their opinions about the Site C project in a safe and lawful manner," said BC Hydro community relations manager Dave Conway.

"However, BC Hydro is taking these steps because we have an obligation to ratepayers to keep the project on schedule and on budget."

Conway said the Crown corporation has environmental approvals and permits in place to do the work and is "hopeful that the situation can be resolved."

The notice of civil claim mentions a small group of eight people — members of the Peace Valley Landowner Association, the Treaty 8 Tribal Association, the Prophet River First Nation and the owner of a nearby equestrian centre, among others. 

The injunction states that reparation work on the south bank, which includes clearing lands that will be inundated when the reservoir is created and creating temporary access roads, has been prevented by the defendants.

Conway said work in other areas of the project continues to be conducted. 

BC Hydro claims the work must be completed by March 31 of this year or it will incur loss, damage and expenses. 

In the injunction, BC Hydro says the protesters built and occupied a camp in November 2015 without the permission of the province and have completely prevented any work from getting done since Jan. 7.

It claims protesters have blocked workers by putting up signs saying "No trespassing Treaty 8 Territory," surrounding machinery in yellow tape, and otherwise obstructing machinery.

Protesters 'shocked'

"It's fairly sudden and we're quite surprised by it," said Ken Boon, one of the defendants named in the injunction. 

"We're obviously quite shocked because of the process we had going here. We're a very peaceful camp at the Rocky Mountain Fort site."

Boon said the group had released a set of conditions it wants BC Hydro to meet, and was hoping to discuss them with senior management at BC Hydro.

"Publicly, BC Hydro is saying it's trying to negotiate," he said. "That's where we thought this was going."

Conway said BC Hydro CEO Jessica McDonald had tried to meet with the protesters when she was last in the area, but her tight schedule prevented her from doing so. He said BC Hydro was still trying to arrange a meeting for the next time she would be in the region.

Boon said he and the other defendants intend to get a lawyer to respond to the claim, but otherwise it will be business as usual. 

"We plan on continuing to maintain a peaceful presence at our winter campsite," he said. "Everybody's got to do what they've got to do."

Yvone Tupper, one of the protesters, has started a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for the group's legal battles. 

With files from Brady Strachan and George Baker