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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The Revelstoke Dam : a case study of the selection, licensing and implementation of a large scale hydroelectric project in British Columbia Missler, Heidi Erika


Procedures for the selection, licensing and implementation of large scale energy projects must evolve with the escalating complexity of such projects and. the changing public value system. Government appeared unresponsive to rapidly changing conditions in the 1960s and 1970s. Consequently, approval of major hydroelectric development projects in British Columbia under the Water Act became increasingly more contentious. This led, in 1980, to the introduction of new procedures—the Energy Project Review Process (EPRP) — under the B.C. Utilities Commission Act. This study documents and evaluates the selection, licensing and implementation of the Revelstoke Hydroelectric Dam under the Water Act and assesses to what extent the current EPRP selection and licensing procedure overcame the shortcomings of the Revelstoke experience. The methodological approach used is that of a post-development analysis. The Revelstoke Project case study revealed that the Water Act only addressed project design, safety, and impacts, but not selection and justification. Project implementation proceeded under a conditional water licence. The two-part administrative framework, established under the licence and by B.C. Hydro, lacked integration and failed to provide effective management. A strong commitment to the preservation of environmental quality was lacking. The licensee's monitoring of construction practices in general and of compliance with environmental guidelines, a set of nonspecific commonly accepted construction activities, were inadequate. Governmental surveillance and enforcement were rendered unsatisfactory by staff shortages and a laissez faire attitude. The case study concluded with a post-development environmental analysis, which determined the effectiveness of the Environmental Impact Statement in predicting impacts to be only twenty-five percent. Evaluation of the EPRP and its application in the Site C Dam proposal demonstrated that it is a significant improvement over its predecessor. If applied efficiently and in its entirety, it would provide an adequate structure and procedural sequence for project selection and licensing. However, some of the inadequacies noted in the Revelstoke case study, such the lack of provisions for early public and government participation, an adequate data base, an administrative structure, and a post-development analysis, have not been or only partially corrected. To conclude, this thesis offers some recommendations to further improve this continually evolving process.

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