International Review Declares Site C Dam Construction Slow, Shoddy, Secretive
The Site C hydroelectric project is woefully behind schedule, riddled with construction and safety concerns, and marred by secrecy, according to a report written by an international dam expert and filed in British Columbia Supreme Court last week.
Hired by the West Moberly First Nation, part of whose traditional territory will be flooded by the 1,100-megawatt project, to help secure a court injunction against Site C, E. Harvey Elwin “expresses concern about work at the job site in his 196-page report, citing internal BC Hydro and government documents, many of them previously confidential,” CBC reports. Elwin, who’s worked on dams around the world including China’s Three Gorges project, concluded Site C will take years longer to build than BC Hydro has estimated.
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He said the broken timeline owes in part to projections for placing concrete that were “overly optimistic and not realistically achievable,” with contractors last year installing only 35% of the concrete needed for a major section of the dam.
“At that rate,” Elwin suggested, “Site C will take well over a decade to finish, significantly past its 2024 completion date.”
Elwin also “expresses serious concern at the number of reports detailing construction problems” at the Peace River building site, CBC reports, arguing that “the number, frequency, and lengths of time to close (such reports) are an indicator of the quality of work.” The consultant was also “highly critical of BC Hydro’s public disclosure” in a court affidavit last month.
“The extremely high level of confidentiality and the lack of availability of quantitative progress, cost, and schedule status and progress information on the Site C Project…is extraordinary,” he wrote, adding that he’d never before seen such secrecy surrounding a major public project in his 50-year career.
West Moberly band lawyer Tim Thielmann said Elwin’s report “vindicates” the First Nation’s concerns. “It’s absolutely clear that there are major, major risks to the project,” he told CBC.
In a July 11 letter, BC Hydro President Chris O’Riley told the B.C. Utilities Commission the project remained on time and on budget.