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Metro explainer: Site C's past, present and future

Province's costliest-ever mega-project was actually decades in the making. Metro looks at how we got to this point, and what's next.

Construction work has been underway for more than two years in the Peace Valley on the Site C hydroelectric dam, near Fort St. John, as seen in this 2016 photo

Courtesy Peace Valley Hydro Partners

Construction work has been underway for more than two years in the Peace Valley on the Site C hydroelectric dam, near Fort St. John, as seen in this 2016 photo

How did B.C. get to approving Site C, considering the NDP opposed to the $10.7-billion dam, the largest project in the province's history?

It helps to summarize how British Columbia came to this point to understand what's next — and whether, in fact, the dam is a done deal.

The past: Twice rejected, long simmering

Proposed decades ago as a third Peace River dam, the B.C. Utilities Commission (BCUC) which reviews all B.C. energy projects, rejected Site C in 1981 and 1983 as unnecessary.

But when the previous B.C. Liberal government resurrected the idea in 2010, it exempted the it from BCUC scrutiny, instead passing it through a Joint Review Panel with Ottawa.

The present: New government, same dam

In December 2014, B.C. Liberals approved Site C, sparking construction. But once ousted by the NDP this summer—backed by a deal with B.C.'s three Green MLAs—the fate of the dam hung in limbo.

The Green-NDP pact included a commitment to sending Site C back to BCUC a third time; it concluded the dam would cost $2 billion over budget, fall behind its 2024 target, and be costlier than alternative energy sources. The stage was set.

The future: What's in the cards?

Site C's green-light isn't the last word, however. It won't be done until 2024 at earliest (longer, predicted the BCUC), and already nearly $2 billion into construction, several big contracts are still unsigned — and may be affected by the B.C.'s hope to cap costs at $10.7 billion through an "enhanced oversight" board.

Meanwhile, the Green Party hinted at recall campaigns for at least one NDP cabinet minister, with Andrew Weaver saying he supports such moves but insisted he won't participate. Lawyers for floodplain First Nations said they're filing injunctions against construction. And Monday saw the first of daily 5 p.m. "betrayal" vigils at BC Hydro's Vancouver headquarters.

But as far as several thousands Site C construction workers are concerned — who no doubt breathed a collective sigh of relief on Monday — from here on in, it's full steam ahead in the Peace.

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