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B.C. vows to complete Site C Dam despite surging cost

The price of the Site C Dam has gone up to more than double what it was initially estimated to cost, but that’s not stopping the province from moving forward with the controversial project.

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) – The price of the Site C Dam has gone up to more than double what it was initially estimated to cost, but that’s not stopping the province from moving forward with the controversial project.

Taxpayers will now be on the hook for $16 billion for the dam, which is also expected to be delayed by a year.

The province in part blames the increased costs on the COVID-19 pandemic and “unforeseeable geotechnical challenges.”

“When we made the decision to move forward with Site C in 2017, none of us could have imagined the impact that the pandemic would have on projects here in B.C. and around the world,” said Premier John Horgan. “The project is facing new challenges, and we are committed to managing it in the best interests of British Columbians.”

Despite the increase, the province says “ratepayers and taxpayers are better off completing the project at this stage,” and that stopping it would have “severe impacts” on these stakeholders.

“Cancelling it would cause people’s electricity rates to skyrocket, and we will not burden people with additional financial stress during these difficult times with nothing to show for it,” Horgan added, noting the project is already half done.

According to the province, cancelling the dam would cost at least $10 billion.

For the first time, the government is also sharing the latest geotechnical review by two independent experts, which finds improving the foundation will allow the dam to be safely built, despite initial concerns about the slope on the right bank.

On Friday, the province also unveiled 17 recommendations included in special advisor Peter Milburn’s review of the project. Both the provincial government and BC Hydro have accepted the recommendations.

P. Milburn Special Advisor Site C Summary Report

The review was submitted to the government in December.

Meanwhile, the province has appointed a new chair for BC Hydro’s board to help oversee the remainder of the project.

The Site C Dam is now expected to be completed in 2025.

‘Some people have had to give up and move on’

Friday’s news is disappointing, but not surprising to the president of the Peace Valley Landowner Association.

Much of the land Ken Boon farms in the Peace Valley will be flooded, when the dam is built.

“Some people have had to give up and move on, and move right out of this district,” he said. “The impacts from this project is just horrible.”

“Besides ourselves, there’s 83 km here of people living in the Valley — lives who have been impacted and of course will continue to be impacted now,” Boon added.

He says he once had hundreds of acres on his farm. Now, because of the project, he’s down to less than 10 acres.

“I think the Valley will have the last word on whether they actually get a dam built,” he said.

Boon has been speaking out about Site C since the days of Gordon Campbell. He argues the investment didn’t make sense then, and it still doesn’t now.

BC Greens say cancellation of Site C is still an option

The BC Greens are calling out the province and BC Hydro, saying they knew for the last two years about the massive cost overruns for the Site C Dam, but continued to move forward with the project.

“Without providing information, without providing the quarterly report, they continue to make decisions all along, including the diversion of the river during the election campaign,” she said.

Green Leader Sonia Furstenau says cancellation of the project can still be an option.

“I don’t know that they’re being completely upfront about the potential implications … I think that they are offering one potential outcome,” Fursteneau added.

She notes the area where the Site C project is located is still being contested by local Indigenous groups.

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