When Paul Paquette learned he would be building a piece of the Site C dam, he was thrilled.
"It's huge. I was excited," he said. "I get to employ a lot of local people, which I was happy about."
On Monday, BC Hydro announced the Chetwynd-based contractor had won the tender to clear land on the south bank of the Peace River. The contract includes building access roads, landings and other site preparation.
Paquette and Sons Contracting and four other Chetwynd-based companies won the contract. It is expected to create around 40 jobs.
For Pacquette, it is significant.
It is also the first major contract to go to a Peace Region business. Late last month, Hydro awarded the contract to build the "hotel-like" Site C worker camp to Two Rivers Lodging Group, a consortium that includes ATCO Structures, a multinational.
Paquette, a member of Saulteau First Nation, started his business in 1993 with a single backhoe.
He said many members of that First Nation are on his payroll.
He began with water and sewer projects, and eventually invested in another excavator. He then moved into oil and gas, and learned to build roads.
Logging came next. His largest contract up to this point was to clear forest for the Dokie Ridge wind farm outside Chetwynd — a $5 million job.
There is no firm start date for the clearing work. Hydro has yet to tender contracts for north bank site preparation, the generator and the dam itself.
Workers will begin by clearing around 620 hectares of trees and vegetation, followed by construction of a 30 kilometre access road.
The workers will then prepare the site of a bridge that will span the river during construction.
Court, PR battles continue
As the pieces fall into place for building the dam, lawsuits aimed at stopping it continue to wind through court.
There are seven lawsuits related to the dam.
The Prophet River and West Moberly First Nations, along with the McLeod Lake Indian Band, have launched a provincial suit.
Along with the Doig River Band, the three also have a case before the federal court, arguing the dam would breach treaty rights to hunt, fish and trap.
On Monday, West Moberly First Nation Chief Roland Willson brought 200 pounds of frozen bull trout to the lawn of the B.C. Legislature. A joint study by West Moberly and the McLeod Lake Indian Band found the fish contained toxic levels of mercury—attributed to earlier dam construction.
Since then, Hydro has said it intends to up its monitoring of mercury levels in fish during Site C construction.
Peace Valley landowners also have a pair of suits before the courts.
It's not clear when a decision will be reached in any of those cases, but the provincial government maintains construction will begin this summer.