12/16/2014 09:12 EST | Updated 02/15/2015 05:59 EST

B.C. government decision on Site C dam expected

The province is expected to announce a decision on the controversial Site C dam on Tuesday. 

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

If given the go-ahead, the $8.5-billion project would dramatically alter a large chunk of northeastern B.C. by putting it underwater for the hydroelectric project.

The dam could also damage relations with First Nations. West Moberly First Nation Chief Roland Willson said his band is not opposed to resource development, but his people don't want to see the flooding of this land, which has many sacred sites on it.

"We said no to the destruction of that valley ... it's the last chunk of valley that we have and it's vitally important," he said. "We have to make a decision here that will have implications for many, many decades."

Located seven kilometres southwest of Fort St. John, B.C., Site C would flood more than 5,500 hectares of land over an 83-kilometre stretch of valley. BC Hydro said 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.

In October the federal and provincial governments both granted environmental approval for the project.

But First Nations and environmental groups say they will fight the proposal in the courts and through public protests. 

"They have no respect for the treaty and they have no respect for the First Nations," Willson said. "All they care about is their bottom dollar." 

The project is also being challenged by landowner in the courts.