The Site C dam project may be the subject of multiple protests, but BC Hydro announced Thursday it will be giving Fort St. John a few benefits for hosting the dam and a dispute resolution option for any future disagreements.
The legally binding agreement-in-principle includes 50 housing units, some of which will be affordable housing, a $30,000 donation to local charities, an airport shuttle and funding for an additional police officer. BC Hydro will also give the northern B.C. town $1 million every year, for as many years it will take to construct the $9 billion dam.
It wasn't easy convincing the energy provider to agree to some of the town's terms, says mayor Lori Ackerman.
"The city of Fort St. John fought very hard for a lot of things. We got a really good foundation to move forward, to have the conversation with BC Hydro about this project."
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The dam is a divisive issue in the province and Ackerman said council decided it would not pursue legal means to stop the project.
"We didn't want to be wasting taxpayers dollars on court case. We said, if the dam was approved and proceeded, council has some principles that we needed to be focused on."
In a media release, BC Hydro CEO and president Jessica McDonald stated:
"BC Hydro appreciates the opportunity to work together with the City of Fort St. John to ensure a collaborative approach to mitigating impacts of the project and ensuring meaningful opportunities that benefit the residents of Fort St. John."
The agreement, although legally binding, is only a draft at this point. Ackerman says it was important for the town to have a way of resolving conflicts with BC Hydro throughout the construction of the dam, which is why council insisted on a dispute resolution clause.
"If at any time during the construction of this dam, there are impacts that were unforeseen, or if it's obvious that the one officer wasn't enough … we will be able to enact that dispute resolution clause and deal with that issue," said Ackerman.
To listen to the full audio, click the link labelled: BC Hydro gives Fort St. John list of promises for hosting Site C Dam.