BC NDP Leader John Horgan says he still stands by his decision to approve the Site C dam project, but has hinted that completing the dam isn’t a done deal.
The comments came in a one-on-one face off with BC Green Leader Sonia Furstenau during Thursday’s leaders’ debate on CKNW radio.
Furstenau asked Horgan if, in light of recent new geotechnical problems with the project which have cast its timeline and cost into doubt, he would commit to cancelling the project.
“We made the decision to proceed with it, I stand by that, but new evidence is coming forward in the next number of weeks,” Horgan responded.
“We’ll take a good hard look at that evidence, and if the science tells us and the economics tells us it’s the wrong way to proceed, we’ll take appropriate action.”
The project, which was announced by the BC Liberals in 2010 with a projected cost of $6.6 billion, was re-approved by the NDP in 2017 after a review. The cost projection at that point ballooned to $10.7 billion, though some estimates now put the cost at more than $12 billion.
New problems with the project, including instability on one of the riverbanks, were identified as far back as the end of 2019, but only revealed in July through BC Hydro filings with the BC Utilities Commission.
The report deemed the overall project health “at risk” and noted “additional scope and design enhancements would be required to further enhance the foundations of the structures on the right bank, including the powerhouse, spillways and earthfill dam.”
Before the election, the NDP government appointed former deputy finance minister Peter Milburn as a “special adviser” to probe the project’s problems and costs. Milburn is expected to report back in the coming weeks.
Since then, however, engineers have completed one of the critical project milestones by diverting the Peace River.
In her comments, Furstenau pointed to a recent report by energy analyst Robert McCullough, which found that BC Hydro could save ratepayers $116 million per year by scrapping the project immediately, and accused the NDP of pursuing the dam despite warnings.
“It was absolutely not past the point of no return, and we know the report the (B.C. Utilities Commission) brought forward said we could have generated the same amount of electricity using clean energy projects,” she said.
“We could be creating jobs in every part of B.C., and instead we’re just pouring money down this hole.”