Friday, 22 March, 2019

Site C megaproject to go ahead at increased cost of $10.7B

Site C megaproject to go ahead at increased cost of $10.7B Site C megaproject to go ahead at increased cost of $10.7B
Patty Aguilar | 12 December, 2017, 15:30

The Site C hydroelectric dam will be completed with the backing of British Columbia's NDP government, but it is warning the price tag will be higher than estimated.

Premier John Horgan made the announcement in the legislature's library Monday, the same location nearly three years earlier that Liberal premier Christy Clark first announced the province would proceed with the $8.9-billion dam.

"It sets a pretty strong tone from them", West Moberly Chief Roland Willson said in an interview after the decision. "Not just the requirement for consultation and accommodation - which we always hear about when we're talking about resource projects - but they have entrenched constitutional rights to practice hunting and fishing as before".

The government says the province risked a credit downgrade and debt-servicing costs of up to $150 million annually if the project was cancelled and the treasury absorbed the $4 billion loss.

"Today, Site C is no longer simply a B.C. Liberal boondoggle - it has now become the B.C. NDP's project". It will also flood some 100-plus kilometres of the Peace River valley and its tributaries, including farmland and First Nations cultural sites. Stopping the project now would ensure there's no irreparable damage done to the nations' rights under Treaty 8, Willson said.

"We contacted NDP volunteers, donors and members and trade unionists and said, well, get your views in", Gray said.

"BC Hydro will invite proposals from Treaty 8 First Nations for this roadbuilding work", the government said.

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Horgan said that the C$10.7 billion, a new cost estimate revealed on Monday and up on a previous C$9 billion, could be paid back over many years from electricity payments.

The B.C. Utilities Commission review said the dam is over budget and behind schedule, and said it believes focusing on viable alternative sources like wind and geothermal energy would provide similar benefits at an equal or lower cost. "But I am, I think, the first to stand before you and say I'm going to do my level best to make amends for a whole host of issues".

Meanwhile, the Blueberry River First Nations says it was shocked by the decision. Although the two nations have brought and lost legal challenges in B.C. courts, the commission found the question of rights infringement is far from settled, saying the Crown would ultimately bear the risk of civil litigation should the province decide to continue with Site C.

Site C's green-light isn't the last word, however.

Six First Nations, including the McLeod Lake Indian Band, signed deals of support for Site C with B.C. Hydro.

That report confirmed that the project is over its original $8.3 billion budget, up to almost $10 billion, and behind schedule, but BC Hydro CEO Chris O'Riley told the commission it can still be completed by the original target of 2024.

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