Skip to content

Leaders’ letter wars over Site C

Dear Mr. Weaver:

As you are aware, I was copied on correspondence from NDP Leader John Horgan to BC Hydro CEO Jessica McDonald with respect to current and future planned activities on the Site C Clean Energy Project in Northeast British Columbia.

The construction and completion of Site C represents a generational opportunity to provide British Columbia with another stable, long-term asset that can provide electricity for the next 100 years and further reduce EC’s greenhouse gas emissions.

As you know, with a project of this size and scale, keeping to a tight schedule is critical to delivering a completed project on time and on budget. In the case of Site C, there are approximately 5,500 separate but interrelated actions synchronized as part of the construction schedule to successfully deliver the project.

As such, I wish to inform you that the requests contained in Mr. Horgan s letter, which I assume that you are in support of, are not without consequences to the construction schedule and, ultimately, have financial ramifications to ratepayers. Mr. Horgan has requested that BC Hydro delay the relocation of two homes pending a potential future review of the project by the BC Utilities Commission. The relocation of the homes in question is necessary as part of a two-year road and bridge construction project that will enable river diversion to occur in September 2019.

The decision to divert the river in September has been made to accomplish river diversion when the river is at its lowest. During winter months, the river is at high levels due to the need to generate electricity for BC Hydro customers.

In the Spring and Summer, the river is at high levels due to runoff and snowpack melt.  A delay of months puts the road and bridge construction schedule at risk, which in turn presents a significant risk of being able to begin river diversion as scheduled in September 2019.

Preliminary work undertaken on this issue by BC Hydro indicates that should river diversion not be completed as scheduled, a year-long delay would occur in order to divert the river during the next low-flow period, in September 2020. This one year delay is estimated to cost ratepayers $600 million. Given the obligations that BC Hydro has in place with respect to road construction and completion, a decision to proceed will need to be made no later than June 15, 2017 in order to maintain the September 2019 river diversion schedule.

As the government is in a possible period of transition, I wanted you to have the benefit of this information as we move forward. In addition, there are other decisions that will need to be made this month, that are essential to keeping the project on budget and on time.

Given the above information and the short timeframe in which to decide how to proceed, I am seeking the opinions of you and Mr. Horgan by no later than June 10th. In your response I would ask you to specifically indicate: a) Whether or not you maintain your request to delay the relocation of the two houses in question with the knowledge that BC Hydro ratepayers may be at risk of incurring a $600 million cost increase to Site C, and b) Whether or not you would like government to issue a tools down request to BC Hydro on other decisions that are essential to maintaining the budget and construction schedule of the Site C Clean Energy Project, given that the project is likely to progress past the “point of no return” before the BCUC review you have suggested could be reasonably concluded. I look forward to your prompt response.

Premier Christy Clark

Dear Premier Clark:

Thank you for your letter in response to Mr. Horgan’s request to delay the relocation of two homes pending future review of the Site C Dam by the BC Utilities Commission.

While I was neither privy to, nor involved in, writing Mr. Horgan’s letter to Ms. McDonald, you will know that for four years I have raised significant and substantive concerns regarding the economics of the Site C project.

Your government has chosen to proceed with the costliest public works project in BC history without adequately analysing its economic viability. Even the chair of the Federal-Provincial Joint Review Panel that reviewed the Site C Dam, Dr. Harry Swain, has criticised the process for not sufficiently evaluating the project’s economic case. In the face of these significant concerns, and despite numerous calls for an independent review by the BC Utilities Commissions, you are about to apparently move the project to the “point of no return”.

Please let me express my disappointment in how your government is choosing to proceed with this project. Your government is turning a significant capital project that potentially poses massive economic risks to British Columbians, into a political debate rather than one informed by evidence and supported by independent analysis.

Your letter asserts that delaying the relocation of two homes will cost BC Hydro ratepayers an estimated $600 million due to the project delay. You further request an indication of my position on the matter.

Before I can comment on these assertions, I require access to the supporting evidence, including but not limited to the signed contracts, the project schedule and the potential alternative project timelines that could allow an independent review to be conducted at minimal cost to the ratepayer.

 In addition, I would need briefing notes on the status of existing delays including those associated with the stability of the north bank as well as the acquisition of and compliance with any environmental permits.

I would be pleased to answer your questions on the assumption that the information requested will be forthcoming in a timely manner.

Dr. Andrew Weaver, OBC, FRSC
Leader, BC Green Party

What do you think about this story?