10/14/2014 05:45 EDT | Updated 12/14/2014 05:59 EST

Site C dam granted environmental assessment approval

The B.C. Environment Minister and the Minister of Forests have issued an environmental assessment certificate to B.C. Hydro for the Site C Clean Energy Project, located seven kilometres southwest of Fort St. John.

In a statement issued late Tuesday, the ministers said they had decided that Site C, a proposed $8 billion dam on the Peace River In Northern B.C. is in the public interest and that the benefits provided outweigh the risks of significant adverse environmental, social and heritage impacts.

In May, a federal-provincial Joint Review Panel made 50 recommendations on the proposed project but recommended the project, saying it would "provide a large and long-term increment of firm energy and capacity at a price that would benefit future generations."

However the JRP questioned the project's timetable and left the final decision on its future in the hands of the B.C. and federal governments.

The provincial government says it must still decide whether to proceed with the project based on "an investment decision."

The Site C environmental approval certificate has 77 conditions including:

- establishment of a $20 million fund to compensate for lost agricultural lands and activities

- development of a wetland mitigation and compensation plan

- development of an aboriginal business participation strategy

- implementation of on-site health care with physician and nursing services for the workforce

- development of construction protocols to mitigate environmental impact including wildlife habitat

- construction of 50 rental units in Fort St. John, 40 for BC Hydro housing and 10 for low income households

- households. 

- design and installation of a trap-and-haul facility as part of a fish passage management plan;

- establish three new boat launch and day-use sites and provide approximately $200,000 for a community recreation site fund 

- monitoring of greenhouse gas emissions from the reservoir for the first 10 years of operation

The project would provide a third dam and hydroelectric generating station on the Peace River in northeastern B.C. providing 1100 megawatts of capacity and generating 5100 gigawatt hours of electricity each year—enough to power the equivalent of about 450,000 homes per year.