Diversion tunnels have been completed to redirect the Peace River during low water this summer, in one of the most critical steps to completing the Site C dam, March 2020. (BC Hydro)

Open letter urges B.C. to pause work at Site C dam to review costs, geotechnical issues

Dam has been affected by possible COVID-19 delays

A letter addressed to NDP Leader John Horgan is urging the province to halt the construction of the Site C dam while geotechnical issues are investigated.

The open letter, which includes signatories such as former BC Hydro CEO Marc Eliesen, Chief Roland Willson of the West Moberly First Nations and 16 other former CEOs, scientists and Indigenous leaders, says that the “problem-plagued” project needs to stop construction.

“The Site C project is years away from completion, is mired in problems that may be unfixable, and confronts new, potentially horrendous cost over-runs,” the letter states.

The letter cites geotechnical problems revealed in July, when BC Hydro CEO Chris O’Riley wrote of “a project risk” to do with the right bank. O’Riley said that “investigations and analysis of geological mapping and monitoring activities completed during construction identified that some foundation enhancements would be required to increase the stability below the powerhouse, spillway and future dam core areas.”

The CEO’s letter also cited financial hurdles brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to the worldwide health crisis, the first generating unit of the Peace River dam was scheduled to go into service in late 2023, with a final in-service date in 2024.

“While we remain on schedule to achieve river diversion in 2020, there is uncertainty with the project’s schedule and in-service date. This is primarily due to our ability to re-start and accelerate work that was halted due to the pandemic,” O’Riley wrote in July.

Monday’s (Sept. 28) open letter asks the government to “immediately suspend all construction activities at the project” while giving Site C special advisor Peter Milburn, a former B.C. government bureaucrat with a background in civil engineering, time to accomplish three tasks.

The open letter’s signatories want Milburn to appoint a panel of three professionals with no link to Site C to do geotechnical assessment. Secondly, the letter asks for that information to be public prior to the government making a decision to restart the project.

“This is crucial because to date the public’s trust in the Site C project has been eroded by a lack of transparency,” the letter states. The last ask is for the public to get a “full accounting” of the costs to date associated with Site C, as well as of the upcoming costs required to complete the project.

The cost of the Site C Dam was pegged at $7.9 billion in 2011 but has grown to $10.7 billion. The dam has also been the subject of legal battles, with the Prophet River First Nation settling one in early August.

READ MORE: Agreement between province, BC Hydro, First Nation, ends legal fight over Site C

READ MORE: BC Hydro’s Site C set back by COVID-19, foundation changes


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusIndigenousSite C

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Environment Canada has issued a snow warning for the Kootenays on Friday. File photo
Environment Canada issues snow warning for Friday

Two-to-10 centimetres is expected to fall

Kootenay West Candidates (L to R) Glen Byle (Conservative), Katrine Conroy (NDP), Andrew Duncan (Green), Corbin Kelley (Liberal), Fletcher Quince (Independent, Ed Varney (Independent).
Q&A with Kootenay West candidates: Opioid crisis

Seventh in a series of Q&As with the candidates, look for a new set each morning.

Touchstones Museum has opened up Nelson’s Cold War bunker to the public. The unique exhibit includes artifacts from the 1950s and 60s. Photo: Tyler Harper
Take cover! Cold War bunker opens to public in Nelson

The shelter was built in 1964 in case of nuclear fallout

(L-R) Kazia Hopp, Colby Mackintosh, Hunter Guidon and Russdale Carungui installed the solar panels. Photo: Nakusp Secondary School
Students install 280 solar panels at two SD 10 schools

The panels will help the schools save on their electrical costs

Kootenay West Candidates (L to R) Glen Byle (Conservative), Katrine Conroy (NDP), Andrew Duncan (Green), Corbin Kelley (Liberal), Fletcher Quince (Independent, Ed Varney (Independent).
Q&A with Kootenay West candidates: Child care

Sixth in a series of Q&As with the candidates, look for a new set each morning.

FILE – People wait in line at a COVID-19 testing facility in Burnaby, B.C., on Thursday, August 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
167 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death recorded as B.C. enters 2nd wave

Three new healthcare outbreaks also announced

Rio Tinto Alcan’s aluminum smelter at Kitimat competes against producers in the Middle East and Russia that have no carbon tax. (Rio Tinto)
B.C. carbon tax highest in Canada, export industries unprotected

B.C. NDP, B.C. Liberals say they’re looking at exemptions

(Pixabay)
Vancouver teacher suspended after swearing, touching students and complimenting underwear

McCabe touched students, including rubbing their backs and necks, touching their hair and hugging them

Jack Vellutini, 100, is still making sweet music. Photo: Submitted
Music stirs memories as Trail serenader nears 101st birthday

Jack Vellutini gave his brass instruments to Trail up-and-comers so the legacy of music can live on

BC ELECTION
B.C. political leaders reflect on rural health care as election looms

NDP leader John Horgan, BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson talk health care priorities in the Kootenays

A glimpse of some of the 480 (approx) cars written off as a result of the acid spills along the Trail highway in 2018. Photo: Trail Times
2 years after huge highway acid spill, Kootenay Ford dealer’s frustration grows with ICBC

Trail AM Ford owner Dan Ashman says he just wants fair compensation from ICBC

Mail-in ballot from Elections BC (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
At least 26% of eligible voters have already cast their ballot, Elections BC says

Voters can cast a ballot until 8 p.m PST on Election Day

A 2018 decision to fly a rainbow flag ended up costing the City of Langley $62,000 in legal fees (Langley Advance Times file)
Human rights win in rainbow flag fight cost B.C. city $62,000

“Lengthy and involved” process provoked by complaint

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a news conference Tuesday October 20, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau and his family decide against trick-or-treating this year due to COVID

Adhering to local health authorities, Trudeau urges Canadians to do their part in following those guidelines

Most Read