Ottawa says independent panel to review proposed hydro project in Alberta

EDMONTON -- The federal government has ordered a review of a proposed hydroelectric project in northwestern Alberta.

The AHP Development Corp.

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says it wants to build a power plant and dam on the Peace River upstream from the community of Dunvegan.

Environment Canada says it is referring the company's environmental assessment of the Amisk proposal to an independent review panel.

"The decision to refer the environmental assessment of the project to a review panel was made after considering its potential to cause significant adverse environmental effects and concerns expressed by the public and indigenous groups in relation to these effects," Environment Minister Catherine McKenna says in a release.

McKenna says the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency will make funding available to help the public, including aboriginal groups, take part in the review.

AHP Development says the 330-megawatt project would generate enough electricity to power 250,000 Alberta homes, while producing minimal greenhouse gas emissions in comparison to fossil fuels.

The company's website says the hydro project would be a cost-effective way to help replace coal as a source of electric power in the province.

AHP says its partners include Concord Green Energy, a wholly owned subsidiary of Concord Pacific, a Vancouver-based real estate development firm.

Company officials were not immediately available for comment.

AHP estimates the dam would raise water levels as far away as 50 kilometres upstream and flood about eight square kilometres of land.

The company acknowledges it would affect wildlife and habitat, including part of Dunvegan West Wildland Provincial Park.

The Alberta Wilderness Association has said it is concerned the project would cause significant harm to the Peace River valley, including to fish, birds, deer, elk, plants and trees.

Environment Canada says the review panel will be formed within three months and is to submit its final report within 16 months.

TransAlta Corp. (TSX:TAA) pulled an application for a smaller hydro project in the area last year after its proposal was approved in 2009.

The company cited uncertain market conditions for its decision to not go ahead.



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