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PRRD wants details on $200k Site C recreation fund

Fund would replace shoreline access flooded by $8.8 billion project's reservoir
Site C south bank construction earlier this summer. The regional board wants information on how a $200,000 fund to replace recreation sites flooded by the dam will be doled out.

BC Hydro will pay $200,000 to replace camp grounds, boat launches and shorelines set to disappear under the Site C dam reservoir, but how that money will be doled out remains to be seen.

The Peace River Regional District (PRRD) wants more details from the Crown corporation on how it plans to administer its Site C Outdoor Recreation Fund—a pot of money mandated as part of the controversial hydroelectric project's environmental approval.

Hydro must develop and fund an outdoor recreation plan to "mitigate changes in recreational opportunities and loss of existing areas within the Peace River and its tributaries to the Alberta border." The utility must submit the plan to the provincial environment ministry by Jan. 2017.

Whether local elected officials will have a say in how the money is spent remains to be seen.

At a PRRD meeting Aug. 25, the board opted to ask BC Hydro for more information about the fund. Terms of reference for the plan are under development.

Karen Goodings, representative for Electoral Area B north of Fort St. John, said $200,000 was "just a drop in the bucket" when it comes to recreation infrastructure like boat launches and shoreline access.

"I'm a little concerned that the regional district would end up being the purveyor of money to this project," she said.

A quarter of the $200,000 is earmarked specifically for projects on the south bank of the Peace River. Half the funds will be set aside during project construction for projects "with a geographic focus outside the Site C project area," with the other half to be spent during the first ten years of the dam coming online.

The board expects to review BC Hydro's response at a later meeting. None of the PRRD's five regional parks will be flooded by the dam.  

Site C still faces landowner and First Nations court challenges, and is expected to be completed in 2024. It will flood 83 kilometres of river valley and generate 1,100 megawatts of electricity.

CORRECTION: A previous article stated that the recreation fund was mandated by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency. In fact, the fund is part of the project's provincial Environmental Assessment Certificate. The article has been updated to reflect this.