Roller-compacted concrete at the stilling basin on the south bank of the Peace River for the Site C dam, September 2017. (B.C. Hydro)

B.C. VIEWS: Dam decision a big test for NDP

Alternatives to completing Site C not pleasant for John Horgan

It may seem far away to most readers, but the Site C dam decision facing the B.C. NDP government will affect you in more ways than just your electricity bill.

We’ve just had the latest round of overheated news coverage on the most expensive construction project ever undertaken in B.C., centred around the shocking revelation that the third dam on the Peace River is behind schedule and over budget. Of course those who were paying attention knew this weeks before, when B.C. Hydro CEO Chris O’Riley confirmed it in a letter to the B.C. Utilities Commission.

The cost estimate is approaching $10 billion, up from $8.3 billion when it began two years ago. And now with a one-year delay in diverting the river to perform the critical stage of construction, O’Riley says it can still be completed at the target year of 2024.

The commission’s review of the project was pushed through in a hurry at the direction of Premier John Horgan, who has committed to deciding whether to scrap the project or carry on with it by the end of 2017. This hasty report has resulted in a field day for the anti-dam industry that has sprung up around the project.

The short version of the commission’s report is that it would cost $10 billion to complete the most efficient hydro dam in North America, and $4 billion to stop it, wind up contracts that have been signed, and put the site back to the way it was.

The report discusses ways B.C. Hydro could provide additional power for a growing province without Site C. One way would be to use the smart grid that has been installed at great cost to implement “time-of-use” electricity pricing.

That means raising electricity rates at peak demand times, mainly early evenings, and lowering them at off-peak times. In political terms, Horgan would have to shut down the biggest construction project in the province, lay everyone off, and then tell people they should run their dishwashers and clothes dryers in the middle of the night.

Here’s a key quote from the review panel’s report:

“The panel believes increasingly viable alternative energy sources such as wind, geothermal and industrial curtailment could provide similar benefits to ratepayers as the Site C project with an equal or lower unit energy cost.”

Note the word “could.” Geothermal energy is Green Party leader Andrew Weaver’s favourite topic these days, but nobody really knows how much that would cost to develop and connect to the B.C. Hydro grid.

As for “industrial curtailment,” that means shutting down mills and mines. The Horgan hardhat tour would likely be put on hold for a while.

Site C fake news has become a bit of an industry on its own, from fantastic claims about how many people could be fed by the strips of land that would be flooded, to a “tension crack” reported by one of the failed political candidates in the region that turned out to be an access road.

The two Indigenous chiefs who have had their anti-Site C cases tossed out of court across the country held one more media event at the legislature earlier this month. Meanwhile other Indigenous communities with project jobs and better territorial claims to the dam site await their fate once the political circus folds its tent.

Weaver has allowed that he won’t defeat the B.C. NDP government if it proceeds with Site C. But he continues to insist that thousands of new electric cars can be recharged with wind and solar power.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email:


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Rescued Comox canoer credits those ‘at the right place, at the right time’

James Milne was rescued in a hypothermic state Sunday near Goose Spit

Comox Valley stroke recovery organization creates new support group for survivors, caregivers

Program coordinator Mackenzie Scharf says awareness of local resources is lacking

Fatal motor vehicle incident on Mount Washington Monday night

North Island Traffic Division called to the incident which took the life of a male driver in his 30s

Comox Valley Water Treatment Project passes alternative approval process

Less than 0.1 per cent of eligible voters filed dissenting forms

WATCH: Students petition Courtenay council for sidewalk

The Arden Ambassador Team appeared before Courtenay council Monday

Alberta budget plans for Trans Mountain expansion

Finance Minister Joe Ceci says expected revenues will be factored into budget forecasts

WATCH: Students petition Courtenay council for sidewalk

The Arden Ambassador Team appeared before Courtenay council Monday

Proposed gun bill attacked by gun owners and shooting victims

The federal government tabled the bill today in order to tighten the sale and tracking of firearms

New anti-radicalization centre in the works for B.C.

Centre aims to help ‘vulnerable individuals of the path to radicalization’ before they turn to crime

B.C. bravery, public service honoured by Governor General Julie Payette

UVic basketball coach Kathryn Shields inducted into Order of Canada

Sea lion with rope wrapped around neck saved by Vancouver Aquarium

Steller sea lions are a species of special concern and some populations are endangered in parts of Alaska

B.C. can learn from Washington’s wine industry growth

Winery owner cites importance of industry collaboration

Most Read