BC Hydro says it's trying to reduce the negative impacts the proposed Site C dam will have on wildlife and habitat in this province's north.
The Crown corporation has already filed an environmental impact statement on the $7.9-billion dollar project, noting it will flood agricultural land and First Nations heritage sites.
Spokeswoman Siobhan Jackson says the project will destroy the homes of animals like the Bay-breasted warbler and migratory bull trout.
But she says BC Hydro is proposing special protective measures like crossings for amphibians, slower turning turbines so fish can escape and fish-free wetlands for dragonflies.
Hydro also bills the dam's proposed 83-kilometre, 9,300-hectare reservoir as the Peace Country's newest tourist attraction, a huge instant lake with at least three separate boat launch areas and well-stocked with fish, with Hydro estimating a 230 per cent increase in fish habitat for rainbow trout.
The environmental impact statement also forecasts flooding more than 5,000 hectares of land, of which at least 3,800 hectares is agricultural land. The project will also flood First Nations heritage sites and force up to 20 families — many life-long ranchers — to move.
"Ultimately, the environmental assessment considers the project benefits and the project effects and balances the two in reaching their decision on whether an environmental assessment certificate should be granted," said Jackson, who was in Fort St. John briefing local residents about the Site C environmental report.
Hydro's report says the arrival of thousands of construction workers in the Fort St. John area has already seen the Crown corporation contributing to the construction of affordable housing units, the hiring of more RCMP officers and offering to provide daycare spaces.
Hydro's Site C Clean Energy Project would be the third dam and hydroelectric generating station on the Peace River in B.C.'s northeast. Site C will be about one-third of the size of the area's W.A.C. Bennett Dam.
Hydro energy forecasts indicate customer demand for electricity is expected to increase by about 40 per cent over the next 20 years. Site C is projected to supply enough energy to power 465,000 homes for 100 years.
A decision on the environmental viability of the proposed Site C project by the federal and B.C. environmental regulatory bodies is expected by next year.
Hydro says if the project is approved, it will be in operation by 2021.