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New Aerial Photos Show Site C Construction Impact As Utilities Commission Review Looms

Although former B.C. premier Christy Clark vowed to push the $9-billion Site C dam past the “point of no return” before the May 2017 provincial election, the fate of the most expensive public project in B.C.’s history is still far from certain.

B.C.’s new NDP government has vowed to send the dam for an expedited review of costs and demand by the B.C. Utilities Commission within a speedy six-week timeframe.

New aerial photos of Site C construction show a small stretch of the Peace River valley significantly altered by excavation crews. The building of the actual dam and associated infrastructure has yet to take place. Unless the project is stopped, construction is expected to continue until 2024 when the filling of the reservoir will flood 107 kilometres of river valley, flooding valuable agricultural land and First Nations historic sites.

An analysis by the Program on Water Governance at the University of British Columbia found that, if completed, Site C would operate at a 100 per cent surplus incurring an estimated $800 million to $2 billion loss to B.C. ratepayers. That same analysis calculated cancellation of Site C by the end of June 2017 would save B.C. between $500 million and $1.65 billion.

A Site C worker camp can be seen in the bottom right of this photo, taken July 2017. Photo: Vicky Husband

 

Photo: Vicky Husband

A bridge crosses the Moberly River which flows into the Peace River. A 400-metre tension crack appeared on the valley face directly across from the mouth of the Moberly River. The embankment was partially flattened is an effort to stabilize the slope. The tension crack was listed as one reason BC Hydro missed hitting key Site C construction milestones, according to a report filed with the B.C. Utilities Commission.

Photo: Vicky Husband

As a result of the tension crack, BC Hydro’s plans to construct Peace River diversion tunnels to allow construction of the dam structure may be delayed. According to BC Hydro’s construction timeline, the river is to be diverted September 2019.

Photo: Vicky Husband

A partnership that includes the Alberta corporation Petrowest, Korea’s Samsung C&T and a Canadian subsidiary of the Spanish conglomerate Acciona make up Site C’s main civil works contractors. According to BC Hydro these contractors have “experienced delays on several of their critical path activities, requiring a re-sequencing of planned work.”

Photo: Vicky Husband

A deep cut in the slope reveals underlying shale rock. Photo: Vicky Husband

Photo: Vicky Husband

Boon family farm. Part of the farm will be flooded as a result of the site C Dam. the remainder of the farm will be destroyed by B.C. Hydro’s road diversion project which will put the road right through the Boon’s Home and upper section of the farm. Photo: Garth Lenz

According to BC Hydro 6,469 hectares of farmland — an area larger than all the farmland in Richmond — will be destroyed by the Site C dam and its vast reservoir. Floodwaters will cover this Peace Valley farm owned by Ken and Arlene Boon. An additional 5,900 hectares of farmland falls within what BC Hydro calls a “stability impact zone” and is at risk of destruction.

Arlene Boon harvesting vegetable in their market garden. Photo: Garth Lenz

Arlene Boon, pictured here in her garden, and her husband Ken live on a third-generation farm recently expropriated by BC Hydro. The Boons are expected to vacate their property by July 23, 2017 unless granted a new extension by BC Hydro.

Tufa seep. Photo: Garth Lenz

In the fall of 2016 BC Hydro applied for a provincial permit to destroy an ancient wetland known as a tufa seep for Site C construction. Botanist and lichenologist Curtis Bjork has studied the Peace River Valley since 2008 and said the tufa seep included in BC Hydro’s application likely began to form 10,000 years ago.

Cascading pools in a Peace River Valley tufa seep. Photo: Garth Lenz

Like a kid in a candy store
When those boxes of heavily redacted documents start to pile in, reporters at The Narwhal waste no time in looking for kernels of news that matter the most. Just ask our Prairies reporter Drew Anderson, who gleefully scanned through freedom of information files like a kid in a candy store, leading to pretty damning revelations in Alberta this spring. Long story short: the government wasn’t being forthright when it claimed its pause on new renewable energy projects wasn’t political. Just like that, our small team was again leading the charge on a pretty big story

In an oil-rich province like Alberta, that kind of reporting is crucial. But look at our investigative work on the Coastal GasLink pipeline to the west, or our Greenbelt reporting out in Ontario. They all highlight one thing: those with power over our shared natural world don’t want you to know how — or why — they call the shots. And we try to disrupt that.

Our journalism is powered by people just like you. We never take corporate ad dollars, or put this public-interest information behind a paywall. Here’s the thing: we need 300 new members to join this month to meet our budget. Will you join the pod of Narwhals that make a difference by helping us uncover some of the most important stories of our time?
We’ve got big plans for 2024
When those boxes of heavily redacted documents start to pile in, reporters at The Narwhal waste no time in looking for kernels of news that matter the most. Just ask our Prairies reporter Drew Anderson, who gleefully scanned through freedom of information files like a kid in a candy store, leading to pretty damning revelations in Alberta this spring. Long story short: the government wasn’t being forthright when it claimed its pause on new renewable energy projects wasn’t political. Just like that, our small team was again leading the charge on a pretty big story

In an oil-rich province like Alberta, that kind of reporting is crucial. But look at our investigative work on the Coastal GasLink pipeline to the west, or our Greenbelt reporting out in Ontario. They all highlight one thing: those with power over our shared natural world don’t want you to know how — or why — they call the shots. And we try to disrupt that.

Our journalism is powered by people just like you. We never take corporate ad dollars, or put this public-interest information behind a paywall. Here’s the thing: we need 300 new members to join this month to meet our budget. Will you join the pod of Narwhals that make a difference by helping us uncover some of the most important stories of our time?

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The Narwhal’s reporters uncover energy stories that send shockwaves throughout Canada. But they can’t do it alone — we need to add 300 new members this month to meet our budget. Will you support crucial climate reporting that makes an impact?