British Columbia

Site C dam completion one step closer with diversion tunnel breakthrough

BC Hydro is one step closer to diverting the Peace River for construction of the Site C Dam while environmentalist calls the project egregious.

Project still faces court challenge from First Nations in the region

Workers inspect the meeting point of excavations on one of two diversion tunnels that will be used to temporarily reroute the Peace River for Site C dam construction in 2020. Breakthrough on the second tunnel is expected in July. (BC Hydro)

The construction of a controversial project on the Peace River in northeastern British Columbia is one step closer to completion.

Over the weekend, BC Hydro completed digging a 700-metre long tunnel. It's one of two tunnels that will reroute the river while the Site C dam is being built. BC Hydro says breakthrough on the second tunnel is due next month. In a video released this week, they say they've reached a critical milestone.

Joe Foy, co-executive director of the Wilderness Committee says he opposes diversion of the Peace River and says despite the breakthrough, it's important to continue to protect First Nations territory and way of life from further damage.

"This project is so egregious, I think it's time to put it on hold. There are better ways to get the electricity," says Foy.

BC Hydro is using two custom-built slip forms to create the circular lining for its diversion tunnels. The tunnel lining will be up to two-metres thick in some sections. (BC Hydro)

"I think we need to look inside ourselves ... it's an insult to the Indigenous people," says Foy.

Although, the water is still usable by boaters, Foy says it's not enough.

"They've taken some care for boaters, while they destroy the river valley,"  he says.

Construction trucks hauling dirt at the Site C construction site near Fort St. John in B.C.'s Peace River region. (Christer Waara/CBC)

Pressure on government to put project on hold

 Site C is still subject to two civil lawsuits from First Nations with court dates set for 2022. 

Last year, a UN committee warned that the construction of the dam may violate international agreements on the right to free and informed consent with Indigenous peoples.

 The dam is expected to power the equivalent of almost half a million homes a year when it is completed.

With Files from Daybreak North

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