November 16, 2018 12:30 am
Updated: November 16, 2018 3:52 pm

How stable is the land under the Site C Dam project?

WATCH: Concerns over land stability under Site C Dam

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This is part two in a three part Global BC series examining the Site C dam. Read part one here.

The Site C Dam in northeastern B.C. has been controversial from day one, and the debate hasn’t cooled down since Premier John Horgan decided last December not to stop construction.

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Among the concerns is whether the dam is being built on solid ground. Land stability is a constant issue in the Peace region, as BC Hydro — and nearby residents — have experienced first-hand.

Critics who think Site C is on shaky ground point to the dam’s north bank, where last yea, huge tension cracks appeared and delayed the diversion of the Peace River by a full year.

READ MORE: B.C. First Nations seek injunction to halt Site C project on Peace River

Since then, workers have removed enough earth from the north bank to fill BC Place six times, and to lay back the slope to what BC Hydro says is a more gentle angle.

“We’ve designed the project to best international and national standards,” Site C design director Andrew Watson said.

Just a kilometre away from Site C is Old Fort. The community is still cleaning up from a slow-moving landslide that began in September, destroyed one home and wiped out the only road in and out of the community.

WATCH: Behind-the-scenes tour of Site C dam construction 

READ MORE: Last gasp initiative underway to cancel Site C dam

Even though the evacuation order has been lifted, some residents are still too scared to return.

“It’s kind of like, when is it going to stop sliding?” Old Fort resident Doug Edstrom said.” A week? A day or a month?”

Edstrom thinks the slide was caused by a gravel quarry above Old Fort, and that there is absolutely no connection to the Site C project.

Still, it illustrates the geotechnical challenges faced by BC Hydro in the area.

READ MORE: Road to Old Fort reopened, evacuation order lifted for landslide-isolated community

“Landslides are very common in the Peace River,” Watson said. “We have designed adequate measures into the project to address the slope stability.”

With six years to go before Site C is done, there could be more bumps in the road for the Crown corporation.

BC Hydro has scored 15 consecutive court victories, but a judge has ruled a trial must take place by 2023 to decide whether the dam infringes on Indigenous treaty rights.

Critics like farmer Ken Boon, whose land has been expropriated, also plan to keep fighting.

“We haven’t even started to pay for this project, it’s all borrowed money,” he said. “What’s that going to do to our hydro rates?

The Site C budget was once $8.3-billion, and grew to $10.7-billion after an NDP-ordered review of the project.

Will it climb again? BC Hydro doesn’t think so.  But only time will tell.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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