The Amisk Hydroelectric Project is a dam on the Peace River, but that’s where comparisons with its better-known upstream cousin end.
The company seeking to build the 300-plus megawatt project near Dunvegan, Alta. says its dam has little in common with Site C, the 1,100-megawatt BC Hydro facility under construction up-river near Fort St. John.
If built, the Alberta proposal would be the fourth dam on the Peace River. Ian Sanchez, vice president of Amisk Hydro project developer AHP Development Corp., said the impacts of the Amisk project would be small compared to Site C.
“(Site C is) inundating a lot of land and is inundating, in some instances, some very high-quality agricultural land. Ours just isn’t like that,” he said. “We’re very fortunate with this location. So from a stakeholder point of view, from an environmental impacts point of view, our project is just much more benign.”
The Amisk project has yet to file its environmental impact assessments with provincial and federal regulators. Sanchez expects a Joint Review Panel will be appointed to review the dam in the coming years. The project has a projected in-service date set for 2026—two years after Site C is scheduled to come online.
Amisk would be located in what Sanchez called a “deeply incised” valley on the Peace River near the B.C./Alberta border. It’s headpond would be significantly smaller than Site C’s 83-kilometre reservoir, and would hold less than 48 hours of water. However, it would inundate some upstream campgrounds, as well as parts of the Dunvegan Wildlands park and some private land.
The Amisk dam was initially proposed in 2012 as a private power project to sell electricity to the Alberta grid. Work has ramped up since the Alberta government announced its intent to decommission its coal power fleet by 2030. Designers recently added 5-7 metres to the dam’s proposed height, putting it at about 24 metres and adding around 50 megawatts of generating capacity.
Sanchez said his company was following news of Site C.
“We have followed what’s happening in terms of the regulatory process and stakeholder concerns, for sure,” he said. “But our (project is) quite different.”
The proposal to upgrade the Amisk project comes at a time when Site C is focusing attention on the health of the Peace-Athabasca Delta—including a UNESCO monitoring mission in Wood Buffalo National Park, where some First Nations say upstream development is affecting the health of the rivers.
The Joint Review Panel appointed to scrutinize Site C found the dam “would not have any measurable effect” on the Peace-Athabasca Delta.