12/13/2013 12:12 EST | Updated 02/12/2014 05:59 EST

B.C.'s Site C dam threatens Athabasca Delta, Alberta says

The massive Site C  hydroelectric dam proposed for northeastern B.C. could reduce wildlife habitat across the border in the Athabasca Delta, the Alberta government says.

BC Hydro is proposing to build a third dam on the Peace River, but Alberta says the two existing dams have significantly changed the flow of the river downstream in the neighbouring province.

The Peace–Athabasca Delta is the largest freshwater inland delta the world. It is partially located in Wood Buffalo National Park and has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Duncan MacDonnell, spokesman for the Alberta Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, says the net impact has been less water in the Athabasca Delta, resulting in a loss of habitat.    


"Our interests are with aquatic ecosystems in Alberta, and infrastructure in Alberta, ferry crossings, water intakes in particular, and paying attention to, in that respect, low flows."

Alberta has filed a 23-page written submission to the Joint Review Panel studying the Site C Dam proposal, which is currently holding public hearings in Hudson's Hope.

The submission also notes Alberta's concerns that construction of the dam will increase mercury levels and mortality rates for fish and has asked BC Hydro to do more studies on the impacts.  

Earlier this week, the Métis Nation of Alberta in Fort Chipewyan announced it is suing BC Hydro and the federal government for $3 billion for damages to the Lake Athabasca Delta.

The Métis argue that the two dams on the river have had irreversible impacts on wildlife and plants in the region, preventing the Métis from continuing their way of life.