12/09/2013 06:55 EST | Updated 02/08/2014 05:59 EST

Controversial B.C. Hydro Site C dam hearings underway

Public hearings began Monday in Fort St. John, B.C., continuing the 40-year fight over the huge, controversial Site C hydroelectric project planned for the Peace River.

The proposed Site C dam would be the third on the river and cost $8 billion to build. Its supporters say B.C. needs extra power and the dam would generate 1,100 megawatts of electricity — enough to supply 450,000 homes.

However, there are many have fought the project for decades, arguing the environmental cost of the Site C dam is too high and the losses for B.C.'s Peace Region will be huge.

Dam to flood Peace 

The dam would flood 85 kilometres of the Peace River valley, affecting First Nations' areas, a highway and the homes of farmers like Ken Boon. 

"Whatever wouldn't be inundated by water would be used up, by you know, the highway realignment, the sloughing," said Boon. 

He has fought Site C for decades and hopes this environmental assessment will result in the project being permanently shelved. 

"Yeah, it's frustrating, actually," said Boon, "You know, in this day and age to still have to be fighting a dam."

Dam needed for growth

But others, like Pat Pimm, the Liberal MLA for Peace River North, take a different view.  

He says the dam's power is needed to meet demands from B.C.'s growing population and economy. 

"We've got a very active mining sector, we've got some liquefied natural gas projects that hopefully are going to be able to move forward as well, said Pimm.

"I think all in all it's a vision, not that much different than the vision that W.A.C. Bennett had way back when we built the first dam."

The hearings will continue until late January and will be held in Chetwynd, Hudson's Hope, Prince George, Dawson Creek and Peace River, Alberta.

Reading on mobile? Click here for an interactive map guide to the Peace River dams