British Columbia Hydro and Power Authority (the proponent) has received environmental assessment certificates for the Mica Generating Station Unit 5 and Mica Generating Station Unit 6 projects.
Environment Minister Barry Penner and Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Minister Blair Lekstrom made the decision to issue the certificates after considering the review led by B.C.’s Environmental Assessment Office (EAO).
The projects involve installing two 500-megawatt turbines into existing bays at the Mica Generating Station, located at the Mica Dam on the Columbia River, approximately 135 kilometres north of Revelstoke. The Mica Unit 5 project also includes a new capacitor station near Seymour Arm along the existing transmission lines from Mica Generating Station to the Nicola Substation.
The Mica Generating Station was commissioned in 1977, designed and fully licensed to accommodate six units, but construction of the fifth and sixth units was deferred until additional capacity was required. Four turbines currently operate with a generating capacity of 1,805 megawatts. With the installation of the fifth and sixth units, the generating capacity will increase to 2,805 megawatts.
The additional generating capacity, expected to be in-service by 2014 for Mica Unit 5 and 2015 for Mica Unit 6, will assist BC Hydro in meeting growing peak demand for electricity in British Columbia. The projects are consistent with the provincial government’s goal of becoming self-sufficient in electricity by 2016 while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The EAO assessment reports concluded the projects are not likely to have significant adverse effects, based on the mitigation measures and commitments included as conditions of the certificates.
The provincial environmental assessment certificates contain 95 commitments the proponent must implement throughout various stages of the projects. Key commitments include the following:
·Undertake a fish habitat monitoring program over a five-year period.
·Construct two raptor nesting platforms away from the construction areas.
·Fence the riparian buffer adjacent to construction areas to ensure encroachment does not occur.
·Undertake a survey to assess and relocate key rare plants used by First Nations for food, spiritual, cultural and medicinal use, prior to site clearing and preparation at the capacitor station site.
The projects did not trigger an environmental assessment under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. Before the projects proceed, the proponent will still need to obtain the necessary provincial licences, leases and other approvals.
The Secwepemc Nation, Okanagan Nation, Ktunaxa Nation and Lheidli-T’enneh Band were consulted on the assessments and the B.C. government is satisfied that the Crown’s duties to consult and accommodate First Nations interests have been discharged.
The capital cost of the projects is estimated to be between $900 million and $1.3 billion. The projects are expected to provide 821 person-years of employment over the four-year construction period. Annual water rental payments to the provincial government will increase by an estimated $4.8 million.
The annual grants in lieu of taxes that the proponent pays to the Columbia-Shuswap Regional District, the Regional District of Fraser-Fort George and the Village of Valemount are estimated to increase by $560,000.
In 2007, an environmental assessment certificate was granted to BC Hydro for the Revelstoke Unit 5 project. Work on the $280-million project, which involves the addition of a 500-megawatt turbine to the Revelstoke Generating Station, is nearing completion and is expected to be operational this fall.
More information on the environmental assessment can be found at www.eao.gov.bc.ca