12/15/2014 07:11 EST | Updated 02/14/2015 05:59 EST

B.C. expected to make Site C announcement Tuesday in Victoria

VICTORIA - The British Columbia government is poised to make a major announcement on the controversial Site C hydroelectric dam project.

Provincial Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett has called a news conference in Victoria on Tuesday to make what his ministry says is a major announcement.

Bennett has consistently said that he expects to announce before Christmas whether the province will reject or go ahead with construction of the $8.5-billion project.

The dam would be the third on the Peace River, flooding 5,550 hectares of land over an 83-kilometre stretch of valley.

Crown-owned utility BC Hydro says Site C would generate an estimated 1,100 megawatts of capacity, or enough to power the equivalent of 450,000 homes a year.

Last May, a joint federal-provincial environmental assessment panel made no clear recommendation for or against the project, but First Nations and environmental groups say they will fight the proposal in the courts and through public protests.