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Open letter calls for a pause on Site C

by Mark Sabourin
EcoLog, 10/2/2020 9:51:00 AM

An open letter signed by 18 prominent British Columbians urges Premier John Horgan to bring construction of the Site C dam to a halt until it’s determined that serious geotechnical problems can be resolved and at what cost.

Signatories include a former head of BC Hydro, prominent First Nation leaders, scientists, environmentalists, human rights advocates, and former provincial and federal cabinet ministers.

The cost of the dam project, estimated at $7.9 billion in 2010, is now forecast to come in at $10.7 billion, according to a July 31, 2020 progress report from BC Hydro. The open letter pushes that figure even higher, to $12 billion — a figure cited in a recent article in the online magazine The Narwhal.

In addition to a ballooning cost and an uncertain in-service date as a result of COVID-19 disruptions, BC Hydro must now address new geotechnical problems disclosed in the July 31, 2020 progress report. “Foundation enhancements” will be needed below the powerhouse, spillway and future dam core areas, and the impact on the project’s cost and schedule won’t be known until the appropriate enhancements have been decided upon.

That was enough to prompt British Columbia to appoint former deputy finance minister Peter Milburn to take an independent look at the project. But that’s not good enough, according to the open letter.

“The prudent course of action . . . is to immediately suspend all construction activities at the project,” the letter says, until an independent, three-person panel is appointed and reports openly and transparently on the problems and their costs.

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