The B.C. Green party has challenged the provincial NDP government’s stance that the controversial Site C Dam must go ahead because it has gone past “the point of no return,” calling for the province to abandon the project.
In a statement, interim party leader (and Saanich-North and the Islands MLA) Adam Olsen said the current trajectory of Site C - with the province continuing work on the project while not knowing what it will ultimately cost - puts public funds at significant risk.
“This project should not be given a blank check to proceed at any cost imaginable,” Olsen said in the statement. “The NDP should seriously consider cancelling Site C… “I’m concerned that the government is saying Site C is past the point of no return, while admitting that they don’t know the current state of the project.”
On Friday, filings by BC Hydro to the B.C. Utilities Commission noted the Site C project is undergoing a “re-baselining” to determine the likely timeline and cost range after COVID-19 delayed a number of scheduled milestones in construction. BC Hydro also noted it can no longer commit to the dam being fully online by 2024 as originally intended.
In light of the news, B.C. energy and mines minister Bruce Ralston appointed a new special advisor to the project to provide new oversight on the cost overruns at Site C, while again committing the province to completing the project despite financial challenges posed by COVID-19.
However, Green MLA Sonia Furstenau noted that the province cannot blame the project’s current uncertain state on the novel coronavirus shutting down work around the province. She said one of the main points identified by BC Hydro - a geological instability in the right bank of Site C that has been determined to require additional work on the project’s foundations in that area - was there long before March.
“The overall project health was red as of December 2019, due to significant cost pressures from geotechnical instability and contract disputes. The issue of geotechnical instability has been raised by experts for years,” Furstenau said. “So this risk should come as a surprise to no-one.”
The Greens are suggesting an alternative portfolio of renewables to replace the energy production expected at Site C, which has been planned as the backbone of several major industrialization initiatives in northern B.C., including the LNG Canada project.