FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – The Site C Dam project will continue in B.C.
B.C. Premier John Horgan announced that after he and his cabinet went over an independent review of the project’s status and issues, he is confident that moving forward with the project is the best course of action.
But the project will proceed but with a higher budget, a later in-service date, new leadership at BC Hydro and a series of recommendations stemming from several independent reports.
“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 during a press conference. “The project is facing new challenges, and we are committed to managing it in the best interests of British Columbians. 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. Site C is already 50 per cent finished, and our government will complete this project, ensuring British Columbians have clean and affordable power for decades to come.”
The province cited a review by Peter Milburn, a former deputy finance minister, who was asked to independently produce a report on the status of the project. Milburn gave 17 recommendations that focus on improving oversight and governance. All have been accepted by the province and are in the process of being implemented. Milburn will remain with the project team to oversee those efforts.
The province also wanted to address concerns about issues the project has had with stabilizing tension cracks on the Peace River’s banks. They released a geotechnical review from engineering experts John France and Kaare Hoeg.
Horgan said the review confirmed the foundation enhancements developed to address geotechnical issues on the project’s right bank will work and the site is safe. France and Hoeg have been retained to provide oversight to BC Hydro while the work is being done.
Horgan also announced major leadership changes at BC Hydro. Doug Allen has been appointed the new chair of BC Hydro’s board. Horgan stated the board may have been too focused on an engineering mindset and a different direction is needed.
Allen was recently appointed to the board of directors at Insurance Corporation of British Columbia. In 2015, he was the interim CEO of TransLink. He also has previous experience as the interim president and CEO of BC Ferries, when it was moved to a stand-alone authority from a Crown corporation.
Allen replaces Ken Peterson, who was appointed chair in 2017. After spending more than 40 years in the electricity industry, Peterson led BC Hydro through major reforms.
The province explained that its new cost estimate, $16 billion, and one-year delay is due to COVID-19 disruption, foundation enhancements, and other cost and schedule pressures.
Horgan said that to cancel the project would stick taxpayers with a $10 billion bill and no asset or electricity to show for it.