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

(BLACK PRESS FILE PHOTO)
Nanaimo man killed in Highway 4 crash

RCMP say dirt bike turned ‘suddenly’ into traffic

Nanaimo RCMP arrest man with axe in downtown park. (File photo)
Man seen with axe at Nanaimo park, numerous RCMP officers respond

Incident happened Friday evening at Maffeo Sutton Park

Nanaimo Track and Field club member Olivia Lundman set a Canadian record in the U18 3,000-metre race walk event at meet in Kamloops this past weekend. (Photo submitted)
Nanaimo Track and Field Club race walker sets national record at her first meet of the season

Olivia Lundman breaks 30-year-old mark in U18 3,000-metre race walk

BC Liberal candidate Duck Paterson on the campaign trail. (Submitted photo)
BC Liberal candidate Duck Paterson clarifies position on climate change

Paterson calls human activity a ‘contributing’ factor and says climate change must be addressed

Bouquet to the person who sent the beef about the rude couple at the fast food restaurant. I want to say a huge thank you for standing up for that poor person who had to endure their bullying. That couple would be my father and his girlfriend. It’s about time someone told them off.
Beefs & Bouquets, Oct. 21

To submit a beef or a bouquet to the Nanaimo News Bulletin, e-mail editor@nanaimobulletin.com

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry presents modelling of COVID-19 spread in B.C., March 25, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. sets another COVID-19 record with 203 new cases

up to 1,766 active cases in B.C., two more deaths

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
British Columbia man dies during ski trip near glacier west of Calgary

Kananaskis Public Safety and Alpine Helicopters responded around 2:30 p.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, Oct. 19, 2020, following a week-long break for the House of Commons. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
One crisis after another for Trudeau since last federal election one year ago

It has been a year of unprecedented calamity and crisis

Candidates in the Nanaimo riding include Kathleen Jones, B.C. Liberal Party, top left; Sheila Malcolmson, NDP; Lia Versaevel, Green Party. (Photos submitted/News Bulletin photo/Elections B.C. image)
B.C. VOTES 2020: Nanaimo candidates

Provincial election candidates discuss their priorities in their own words

Candidates in the Parksville-Qualicum riding include Rob Lyon, B.C. Green Party, top left; Don Purdey, Conservatives; John St. John, independent; Michelle Stilwell, B.C. Liberals; and Adam Walker, B.C. NDP. (Photos submitted/Elections B.C. image)
B.C. VOTES 2020: Parksville-Qualicum candidates

Provincial election candidates discuss their priorities in their own words

Candidates in the Nanaimo-North Cowichan riding include Chris Istace, B.C. Green Party, top left; Duck Paterson, B.C. Liberals; and Doug Routley, NDP. (Photos submitted/Elections B.C. image)
B.C. VOTES 2020: Nanaimo-North Cowichan candidates

Provincial election candidates discuss their priorities in their own words

Rotary Centennial Garden at Maffeo Sutton Park. (Sean Fenzl photo)
New Rotary garden officially open at Nanaimo’s Maffeo Sutton Park

Rotary Centennial Garden design inspired by the shoreline

Members of the Sipekne’katik First Nation load lobster traps on the wharf in Saulnierville, N.S., after launching its own self-regulated fishery on Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Vancouver Island First Nations back Nova Scotia’s Indigenous lobster fishermen

Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council calls for action before lives are lost

Most Read