Clark vows to get Site C “past the point of no return” …during memorial.

The memorial for former long time premier Bill Bennett was held yesterday as many friends, family and politicians gathered to remember his life and his life’s work.

clarkpalin

 

Among those speaking was Premier Christy Clark,who somehow still managed to find a way to mention herself in her eulogy:

 

“She promised to finish Bennett’s vision for the controversial Site C Dam project.

“Premier Bennett, you got it started and I will get it finished. I will get it past the point of no return.”

Moving beyond the fact that politicking at memorials is really poor form,her statement raised eyebrows of many, I’m told by some who were actually there.

Partly because of the inappropriate timing of the comment, but also because Bennett handled his governments attempt at building Site C in a manner completely opposite to  that of the current government.

Bennett did have a vision, but he did not just force it through like the Clark government is -at least not when it came to Site C

 In fact it was the Bennett government that created  the BC Utilities Commission.

It’s job was ( and still is when government allows it) to regulate Hydro rates and review BC Hydro’s projects independently fully and independently to ensure they are needed, costed properly and ensure all projections/estimates are correct.

Site C did not come to pass back in the eighties because when the BC Utilities Commission reviewed it ( remember it was then premier Bennett’s government that created this independent agency) they found that there was no need and that it was not in the best interests of British Columbians. The BCUC instructed BC Hydro and the government to begin investigating and pursing other alternatives like geothermal,solar and other alternate means.

And that was the end of Site C. It died with the BC utilities commissions denial. Why?

Because Bennett did not force the dam through like Clark is. He trusted the analysis of the agency he helped create, and put a stop to the plans when they said no. Whether you were on the same side of Bennett politically or not, you have to respect that he did the right thing here.

sitecjprAs I’ve written of previously, it was the Campbell government that exempted Site C under the Clean Energy Act, in my opinion not because hydro power is clean, but because they knew it was very likely that the BC Utilities Commission independent review would once again say it was not needed or justified and deny the project.

Which, will forever be a travesty forced onto this province and certainly not something I could imagine Bennett being proud of. What the Campbell/Clark governments have done with the BC Utilities Commission, crippling it, is appalling.

Cities in the area of Site C, asked the province to send it to the BC Utilities Commission. The Union of BC Municipalities, made of  representatives from all cities in BC, passed a resolution asking the Premier to send Site C to the BCUC, all because of concern over the escalating costs & lack of proof it is needed. Many other groups and organizations have asked, including other political parties – all to deaf ears.

There are still several outstanding court cases on Site C from First Nations in the area and Clark knows all of this was done wrong – she also knows  there is a good chance that any of those three court cases could put a stop to all of it.

It just doesn’t make sense.  Particularly to make a vow of  “getting it past the point of no return” in a eulogy for the man who created the process her government refuses to acknowledge and participate in. That is not, by far, a show of respect.

 

clarkreversemistakeRecently, Clark heralded the federal government for reversing the decision on the Coast Guard closures in BC, and it’s time for her government to do the same thing on Site C- particularly when you look at what happens when you do things the wrong way.

Look at Muskrat Falls, a dam project that looks like it might go down in history as one of the biggest boondoggles an eastern province has seen. In fact, the costs and projects are so out of line, that the Newfoundland government is conducting an independent review now, during construction.  Ironically the scope of the review is nearly identical to what the BC Utilities Commission should have done on Site C.

It’s now being called an over budget burden on the province and there are growing calls for the province to cut its losses and stop construction before it gets worse:

The Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project in Labrador was always destined to define the political legacies of the politicians who championed it. As by far the biggest capital undertaking in Newfoundland and Labrador history, it would either enrich the province as a North American clean-energy power provider or saddle it with a Hoover Dam-sized debt it would long regret.

The skeptics hovered long before oil and gas prices tanked, leaving the provincial government facing massive deficits far into the future and dismal prospects for fetching premium prices for the project’s power on export markets. Newfoundland taxpayers risk paying for Muskrat Falls in more ways than one.

The $7.7-billion project also risks burdening Canadian taxpayers, who, thanks to the federal loan guarantee on $5-billion worth of Muskrat Falls bonds, are responsible for repayment should the provincial entity that issued them default. t, thankfully, is not an immediate concern.

~snip~

The project is behind schedule and over budget. In September, Nalcor upped its cost estimate for Muskrat Falls to $7.7-billion from an initial $6.2-billion. The total comes to more than $9-billion, when financing costs during the construction phase are included. That may not be the end of cost overruns before the power starts flowing in 2018 – or later.

~snip~

“This politically charged project is large relative to the provincial economy and is expected to place considerable upward pressure on future electricity rates,” Moody’s noted this year in a report on Newfoundland Power, the private power distributor that, as a condition of the federal guarantee on Muskrat Falls, must buy its electricity from Nalcor.

Former top provincial bureaucrats Ron Penney and David Vardy, who estimate that Muskrat Falls will increase Newfoundland’s gross debt by 50 per cent, recently called the project “one of the most unfortunate public-policy decisions in the history of the province.”

Many Newfoundlanders wish they could simply pull the plug.

It’s crystal clear that much like Muskrat Falls, the politicians in BC who are championing Site C are also trying to define their political legacies,and Clark’s bizarre vow during her eulogy, sets an ominous tone for hers.  This is not how Bennett would have wanted it finished.

It’s time to stop the project before more taxpayers money is wasted. Listen to the Forces of Know. Do the right thing. There are good, solid, job creation alternatives. Twin the Transcanada to Alberta. Create a market for solar power. Be proactive, not reactive.

Remember Ms. Clark, you said it yourself: “It’s never too late to reverse a mistake that was made.”

** Link to the fundraising page for legal fees of Rocky Mountain Fort Campers named in BC Hydro lawsuit . https://www.gofundme.com/s6c4s4vs

** Check back tomorrow for another post with some compelling photos that are raising big questions.

May the Force of No be with you…

clarkyogasillyOver the years I’ve heard a lot of politicians make some really questionable comments – the tweet above is but one in a sea of many by Premier Clark.  But after her most recent thoughtless remark made news, I’m thinking she might want to lay off the Star Wars for a while…

From CBC: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/b-c-premier-christy-clark-strikes-back-at-lng-opponents-1.3419993

Clark had sharp words Monday for what she calls the “forces of no” in British Columbia who mount resistance efforts to government initiatives purely out of a fear of change.

First Nations leaders quickly shot back at the premier, labelling her comments “paternalistic” and “mindless.”

Clark made the statements during a news conference where she fielded questions about opposition to the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership,environmental concerns over liquefied natural gas developmentand tax breaks for the mining industry.

She said negotiating trade pacts and resource developments involves tough, but potentially rewarding benefits and she would rather be known as an achiever than a quitter.

“There are people who just say no to everything, and heaven knows there are plenty of those in British Columbia,” said Clark. “But just because it’s hard doesn’t mean you give up. It doesn’t mean you should be a quitter.”

She criticized a coalition of First Nations, environmentalists and Opposition New Democrats who signed a declaration demanding a protection zone near a proposed multi-billion-dollar LNG project at Lelu Island near Prince Rupert.

“I’m not sure what science the forces of no bring together up there except that it’s not really about the science,” said Clark.

“It’s not really about the fish. It’s just about trying to say no. It’s about fear of change. It’s about a fear of the future.”

Ms. Clark, I’m not even sure where to begin on this one. There are definitely people in this province that would like to see all reliance on fossil fuels stop right this instant and have everyone hand over the keys to their vehicle while munching on kale chips as an alternative food source to anything else. And, that’s their prerogative.

But to be honest and pragmatic, we know that isn’t going to happen anytime soon. Those people are not the people saying No in Prince Rupert. Nor are they the people saying No to Site C, or No to the Massey Bridge. And your comments are not only patronizing, they are completely hypocritical and thoughtless.

sitecprotest3

Having been born and raised in northern BC and having now lived here in Metro Vancouver for many years, your lack of understanding of the diversity and concerns of interior and northern residents is appallingly clear.

Yes, people want good paying jobs to support their families,but they also have a deep concern for what the impact of the resource industry is having, in and around their communities. They want to know that things will be ok for their children, and their childrens’ children. They want to see vast forests,clean lakes with fish,wild animals to hunt and yes, trap. But they need good jobs as well.

2014-11-11 026

 

Without a doubt,it’s a complicated issue that in many cases divides not only communities but families as well. They see the writing on the wall, and want a future that is bright,not bleak. It’s not anywhere as cut and dried as your government pretends it is. But when your government only offers one option to a community and says ” This is it! Take it or leave it!” IS that defined as success? Not to me. It’s called no way out.

At a time when the world is bravely facing economic and social challenges new to many, British Columbia should be in a position to take a leadership role in adapting,evolving and diversifying… yet we see very little YES from your government on anything that isn’t directed towards trolling some targeted votes from certain sectors,or placating corporate supporters.
Why is that? Ah yes, the forces of NO…..

It just doesn’t make sense. Allowing  every adult the opportunity to upgrade basic education and english, takes the burden off of all provincial services when they are able to achieve financial independence, and contribute to our economies locally, and provincially.

 

It just doesn’t make sense.  Good solid core essentials must be met before re-tooling education to meet demands of industry- particularly odd in the face of so many funding cuts.

 

 

It just doesn’t make sense. US ports will not ship that thermal coal. The cost of solar has dropped dramatically. Why BC isn’t legislating the use of it in certain new builds and creating a market for jobs and industry,is beyond me. Oh wait… the forces of NO in Victoria won’t let that happen.

 

  • The last time the BC Utilities Commission turned down Site C because it wasn’t needed, your government was told to explore options like solar, geothermal energy and other alternatives, but again, government forces of NO prevailed and nothing was done. We are the only jurisdiction along the fiery Pacific Rim not capitalizing on geothermal. Why? No political will.

It just doesn’t make sense. Geothermal would be cheaper, create more jobs and be more environmentally friendly than Site C. And there’s evidence to back that up. Don’t take my word for it. It’s all out there to find on Google.

We’ve seen a host of other No’s over the years.

 

It just doesn’t make sense that we aren’t.

 

It just doesn’t make sense. With a new federal government committed to vital infrastructure projects, the funding could be found at that level, and at a fraction of the cost of Site C, which is not needed.

 

It just doesn’t make sense. Education and the care of children is well recognized  as a cornerstone for a societies future success. Every support should be there to ensure every single child succeeds, that their family succeeds. It costs less to do this early, than deal with social issues later on that result.

 

I could go on,but the No’s that have come from this government far outweigh the Yes’s. I think you know this better than I, Ms.Clark…it just doesn’t make sense.

While average British Columbians face difficulties paying BC Hydro bills that have been raised every year for years – and who get cut off if they can’t pay it- they see government that is now looking at allowing resource companies to defer their bills! A questionable idea if for only the reason of BC Hydro’s questionable practice of borrowing from Peter to pay Paul. 

In fact, while years ago the resource sector was a driving force in BC, it hasn’t been for years. Norman Farrell has been looking at this for a while, but even apart from his fine work, the facts don’t lie.

Take a look at some startling facts that totally negate the provinces continual subsidy of the resource sector: http://credbc.ca/role-energy-sector-bcs-economy/

Oil, gas and support services make up just 3% of our GDP, compared to 15% for manufacturing and construction and over 23% for financial and real estate services. When secondary energy services are added into the equation, the total contribution to GDP is still only 11%. While this number is significant, it’s certainly not where most provincial economic activity is coming from.

Where are the jobs? 

In BC, the mining, oil and gas sector combined employs just 1% of the workforce.

BC energy jobs
Source: 2012 British Columbia Financial and Economic Review

Instead, the biggest employers in the province are:

  • Construction – 205,000 jobs
  • Manufacturing – 164,000 jobs
  • Tourism – 127,000 jobs
  • Real estate and property development – 121,000 jobs

The film sector adds an additional 36,000 jobs and the technology sector employs 84,000 people – more than oil, mining, gas and forestry combined.

Do you see now, Ms.Clark, why there is so much concern? Why people are so worried that the province has not been taking a leadership role in adapting and innovating a new path?

We are worried that you are not helping those whose industries are suffering, train for new careers and paths where they can use those skills?

We are wondering why your government sticks to the same dire path simply if for no other reason than you cannot confront the fact there is a better way. You don’t ask communities what they want or need, you march in and tell them…and then ask what you can do to compensate them after the fact. A cheque here. A pond there. People give in quickly in the face of steam-rollers.

Yet British Columbians are asking for a better way – they  are saying No to the plans that  just don’t make sense and yes to the ones that show innovation, leadership – but those aren’t seen very often.
It’s not about saying No to everything, it’s about saying YES to good policy and the right projects, with proper oversight -case in point, Mt. Polley. A failure on two points. You cannot compromise on environmental or community protections.

prayer stick 1

And we’re not quitters either Ms. Clark. Because unlike you, we will all still be here long after your time as premier has ended.

The forces of No that are hurting this province aren’t the ones in Prince Rupert, or Fort St. John, or even Richmond who are standing up for what is right.

They are the one’s right beside you in Victoria.

 

bc liberal caucus

 

The litmus test for Real Change: Where is Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on #SiteC ?

realchange

The following public letter was issued November 19th, 2015. It is a plea for help, but it is also a factual accounting of the many failures of process the decisions for approving Site C has encountered.

To date, there has been no response or stance taken by either Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and the new Environment Minister has been mum. 

This is unacceptable. In my post this weekend, I made it clear how urgent this is now that heritage sites are about to be logged. If every there was a time for our new Prime Minister to take a stance, it is now. Please share this post widely,send it to your MP’s and ask where they stand. There is no time to waste.  http://lailayuile.com/2016/01/02/bc-hydro-issues-rocky-mountain-fort-campers-at-site-c-a-24-hour-eviction-notice-on-new-years-eve/

The full letter can be read here: http://theecoreport.com/restore-confidence-in-federal-site-c-decisions/

Excerpts:

November 19th, 2015

Honourable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada
Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice
Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change
Honourable Hunter Tootoo, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard
Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs
Honourable Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food
Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport
Liberal Members of Parliament for British Columbia

Dear Prime Minister Trudeau, Honourable Ministers and BC Liberal MPs,

At the outset, let me congratulate you on forming a government committed to making real, positive change both in what the federal government does, and how it does it.

Restore Confidence In Federal Site C Decisions

I am writing on behalf of the Peace Valley Landowner Association (PVLA) to urgently request the assistance of your new government to restore open, transparent and accountable federal government decision-making regarding the controversial $8.8 Billion Site C Dam project on British Columbia’s Peace River.

The decisions your government makes on Site C over the upcoming days and months present a once-in-a-mandate defining opportunity…

~snip~

What Immediate Steps Are We Urgently Asking Your Government to Take?

As non-indigenous citizens committed to the project of reconciliation, we request that:

  1. When deliberating on whether significant harm to the environment resulting from Site C is justified under CEAA 2012, Cabinet expressly consider and determine whether that harm would infringe the solemn promises made to Indigenous People under Treaty. In making such an important decision, we do not want our government to hide behind narrow technicalities to avoid confronting this fundamental issue. This does not further reconciliation.
  2. When Cabinet determines that environmental harm has a substantial risk of infringing Treaty promises made, then as a matter of federal policy, Cabinet will find the infringement is not justified. The circumstances where Cabinet finds such harm and such infringement justified, should be the rare exception, and the threshold should, as a matter of policy, be very high.
  3.  The federal government announce publicly by the end of this year that the practices set out in paragraphs 1 and 2 are:
    • (a)  adopted as part of its commitment to honour the promises made to Indigenous Peoples under Treaties, and to further the project of reconciliation in Canada, and
    • (b)  will be employed to conduct a further Cabinet review of the previous government’s Site C dam approval under CEAA 2012.~Snip~

       

      The federal government invoked cabinet secrecy to avoid disclosing the information Cabinet relied upon for its decision. In a Federal Court challenge, the Court upheld the Cabinet’s decision based upon a presumption of proper conduct in the absence of any record upon which the Court could conduct a review.

      As citizens we have no basis of knowing whether Cabinet even considered how a project that is not needed can justify the environmental harms that it will cause or how Cabinet reconciled these apparent contradictions.

      In the name of openness and transparency, we request that:

      4)  The federal government publicly release the documents upon which former Prime Minister Harper’s cabinet relied to decide that the benefits of Site C outweigh the significant adverse environmental impact

~snip~

 

Time is needed to correct the many flaws in current federal government decision-making processes and to allow for proper open, expert and independent review of Site C alternatives. We request that you:

  1. Place a 2 year moratorium on issuance of further federal permits required for Site C to allow time for a full review of the federal permitting and enforcement processes to ensure they fully respect Treaty Rights and minimize any permanent or temporary adverse environmental impacts.
  2. During the 2 year moratorium,
    • (a)  establish a joint First Nation/Federal Government consultation framework for major projects, including Site C, which complies with both Canadian law and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and
    • (b)  join the call for open, independent and expert review of Site C by the BC Utilities Commission and the Agricultural Land Commission with full procedural safeguards and cross-examination.
  3. Take measures, as necessary, in addition to those outlined above, to restore public confidence in federal government Site C decisions and oversight.
  4. Accept our personal invitation to attend the Paddle for the Peace in 2016 and see for yourself what is at stake.

CONCLUSION

It is 2015. Public processes for constructing a dam of Site C’s magnitude need to be rigorously open, transparent and accountable in order to obtain community social licence as well as avoid unjustified infringement of Treaty Rights.

Time is running out. Preliminary construction has started. The Peace Valley is beginning to be destroyed for future generations of indigenous and non-indigenous people. We would welcome an opportunity later this month to brief you and BC Liberal MPs on Site C in Vancouver or Ottawa.

We urge you to act immediately to restore public confidence. We urge you to do this not just for the farmers and residents of the Peace Valley, but indigenous and non-indigenous people, their children and grandchildren across British Columbia and across Canada so they have the opportunity to experience first-hand the benefit of real change in government and see the remaining Peace River Valley in its’ pristine state

Screen Shot 2015-11-19 at 9.59.51 PM
Ken Boon
President
Peace Valley Landowner Association

EXAMPLES OF ORGANIZATIONS & INDIVIDUALS DEEPLY CONCERNED ABOUT SITE C
– Dr. Harry Swain, Economist and Chair of the Site C Joint Review Panel
– Mr. Richard Bullock, Past Chair of the Agricultural Land Commission
– Union of BC Municipalities
– Greater Vancouver Regional District (Metro Vancouver)
– North Central Local Government Association (NCLGA)
– Association of V ancouver Island & Coastal Communities (A VICC)
– Peace River Regional District (PRRD)
– Gwen Johansson, Mayor of District of Hudson’s Hope
– UNESCO World Heritage Committee
– David Bond, Former Chief Economist HSBC Bank Canada
– Dan Potts, Retired Executive Director, Association of Major Power Customers of BC
– Robert McCullough, internationally respected energy economist
– Marc Ellison, Former CEO of BC Hydro
– BC Government Employees Union
– Canadian Union of Public Employees
– National Farmers Union
– Eric Anderson, Economist
– BC Northern Chiefs Alliance
– BC First Nations Summit
– Union of BC Indian Chiefs
– Assembly of First Nations
– BC First Nations Leadership Council
– West Moberly First Nations
– Prophet River First Nation
– Treaty 8 Tribal Association
– BC Women’s Institute
– Peace Valley Landowner Association
– Peace Valley Environment Association
– BC Public Interest Advocacy Centre
– Amnesty International
– BC Cattlemen’s Association
– Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition
– Sierra Club of BC
– Wilderness Committee
– Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative
– Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society
– Arlene Boon
– George Smith
– Rafe Mair
– Harold Steves
– David Suzuki

 

Sea to Sky highway retaining walls safety inspection reports released, raise more questions on quality of build and maintenance.

One of the advantages to blogging is the ability to follow up on stories as many times as one needs to get to the bottom of it. And as is becoming more common with stories involving the BC provincial government, it’s a matter of digging deeper,looking beyond the ministry media handler statements and sometimes going back and comparing them to new ones.

Such is the story of everything to do with the Sea to Sky highway, that lovely scenic drive and engineering marvel that takes one out to Squamish and Whistler. Not only scenic, its construction,cost and maintenance has been a source of many stories that give British Columbians a glimpse into how major projects are built and paid for.

Stories like the reason there why will never be a toll on that highway – at least until the current contractual obligations are paid out. The hidden shadow toll is based on vehicle usage counts and distance, and is included as a part of the total payment to the concessionaire ( the private partners the government must pay back every month for footing the bill of the construction) If you are a newer reader, you can find all those stories on my Best Of page, just over half way down : http://lailayuile.com/best-of/

Another story that has been just as compelling for me because of the potential implications of the research, revolves around the more than 200 retaining walls built along the Sea to Sky highway.

On April 30th, 2014 I broke the story that the Ministry of Transportation was investigating the condition of a series of retaining walls after photos were taken that showed gaps between blocks, seepage outside of drains, blocked drains, and walls that were wavy and in some cases bulging. http://lailayuile.com/2014/04/30/troubling-photos-spark-ministry-of-transportation-inspections-of-sea-to-sky-retaining-walls-creating-new-concerns-over-kiewit-construction/

The ministry responded on  May 1st,2014, that they had done their own investigation and that the issues were all merely cosmetic in nature. http://www.news1130.com/2014/05/01/questions-raised-about-sea-to-sky-highway-structural-integrity/

In November of 2014, it was discovered that Kiewit had inspected their own work as per a Ministry of Transportation Operation managers emails, who advised the ministry was reviewing what Kiewit had discovered.  http://lailayuile.com/2014/11/27/sea-to-sky-retaining-wall-questions-continue-as-internal-emails-indicate-kiewit-inspected-their-own-work/

It was then revealed – not by government but by a resident in the area of the repair – in April,2015 that two other retaining walls on the Sea to Sky highway that showed little to no visible defects, were undergoing extensive repair work. http://lailayuile.com/2015/04/21/extensive-repair-work-planned-for-sea-to-sky-retaining-wall-one-year-after-problems-on-3-others-first-reported-here/

Transportation minister Todd Stone was on the hot seat in the legislature looking nervous that week, but instead of answering any meaningful questions he tried to deny,deflect and discredit the opposition who were finally doing their job well. http://lailayuile.com/2015/04/23/denial-deflect-discredit/

Just days later it was revealed by yet another Ministry of Transportation manager that Kiewit, the builder of the highway, had used substandard materials. http://lailayuile.com/2015/04/25/the-contractor-who-built-the-wall-peter-kiewit-and-sons-used-parts-in-the-retaining-wall-that-do-not-meet-ministry-standards/

Repairs have been ongoing this summer at the Pasco Road rebuild and at the CN rail overpass near Brandywine falls past Squamish, and in both cases the repairs are extensive in scope.  But why such extensive rebuilds?

An FOI  requested and released to someone in the media in August of this year, gives some insight into what went wrong on these two walls in particular. And the results are damning.

A letter dated June 17th,2014 from Hatch Mott McDonald to Sea to Sky highway builder Kiewit,  states that Kiewit flagged those two walls for internal review and testing, after an internal Kiewit audit showed the possibility that deformed wire was used in the walls instead of the contract standard wire. ( pg 98-106 below)

The safety inspection reports also show that despite the Ministries earlier claim in May 2014 that a full investigation had already been undertaken of the walls, the safety inspections were not conducted until October 2014, a full 5 months after I first broke the story.

The FOI package includes  just 12 inspection reports from 2013. In all, most walls were rated well, with several in the fair to poor range for particular components. All the issues identified by the photos posted here previously are noted, including erosion, drainage issues, water seeping between blocks, misaligned blocks, walls built of out line resulting in a wavy formation, bulges of compacted fill walls, a result of over compaction during construction.

Motion sensors also tracked movement on the walls reported here earlier for a period of time and no significant motion was detected.

However, questions remain as to how and why substandard material was used in the construction of the CN wall and the Pasco Road wall, and why it took until this point in time to address it.

Questions also remain as to why walls clearly built out of line and with defects were approved as acceptable for completion, considering the cost of building this highway. This is something I have never been able to get an answer on from the ministry of Transportation but is concerning to me for a couple of reasons.

  1. The highway is only  6 years old in some areas. To have so many issues that need maintenance and repair -some that are extensive- at such a young age indicates issues during construction that someone still signed off on. If things are popping up so quickly, and in at least a couple of cases are still not being addressed, what can we expect for the longevity of this highway?
  2. Kiewit is on half of the partnership with Flatiron that built the Port Mann Bridge, which also had very tight contractual deadlines, and also experienced significant issues during construction. The continual decline and eventual replacement of a brand new retaining wall on Lougheed Highway and the gantry collapse are just two. Kiewit has had a long history of issues in the US and elsewhere in Canada, which are detailed here. http://lailayuile.com/2014/12/19/kiewit-general-comitted-willful-and-serious-safety-violations-in-washington-state-accident-fined-150000/

With industry sources indicating there have already been incidents of spalling under the  new Port Mann ( falling concrete bits and pieces) and geotechnical issues with settlement.soft earth at both the north and south ends, one wonders if  BC’s great transportion projects will suffer the same crumbling fate as those in Montreal. 

Calls to the Ministry of Transportation made this morning, were not returned as of the time of this posting. I’m not surprised – I would have hard time explaining how an $800 million plus highway ended up like this too. ( and that doesn’t include the 25 years of PS payments either…)

Pasco Road retaining wall rebuild.
Pasco Road retaining wall rebuild.

IMG_20150819_142012 (2)

Hindsight is only helpful if you apply the lesson learned to future actions.

It was a day like any other day of my childhood summers; quick breakfast,clothes on and then running out the door to do the morning rounds of the yard.Checking to see where all the salamanders and toads had settled for the night was always the first thing on my mind,since I found both creatures so interesting.

Next up was a stop in the garden to quickly raid the raspberries or pea patch if it was the season-quickly because if mom caught us eating the goods meant to freeze for fall there would be trouble! Our garden wasn’t for looks,it was for necessity.

As I headed off to the edge of the garden to go down to the creek, I stopped  to pull the green bits out of what was then called “Indian Paintbrush”  growing in the ditch, sucking what little nectar a butterfly would find hard to release, with relish.

I loved our road.

At that time there were only a few homes besides ours,all on acreage and surrounded by lovely forests full of kinnickinnick, huckleberries, and native plants I’d weave into vines to make crowns for my hair. Free time in summer was spent looking for agates on the road, riding bikes all over and for me, playing at the creek.

It was on the far bank of the creek where I was exploring that I saw it. A flower unlike anything I had ever seen before anywhere in the forests around our house, or camping in the bush. To a young girl growing up in an area like this, it seemed alien and exotic in comparison to the daisies and Indian paintbrush so common elsewhere.

wildorchid

I sat there for a while, completely in awe. I looked around and could see no others. Where did this flower come from? How did it get here? So many questions for a young girl with no answers.

And then I picked it.

It was wilting even before I could get it home to a glass of water and completely limp shortly afterwards. I had killed it.

I recall very clearly going back and searching the forest floor all around the creek banks on both sides, then going around the forest in the back yard in my desperation to find another, but there were none. I was devastated in the knowledge of what I had willingly, without thought,done.

And for the rest of my years growing up in my childhood home, I never saw another flower like it. Even as an adult visiting home I have looked,although the creek is all but gone now and there are more homes in place of the forests of my youth- to no avail.

I know now, it was a native orchid often found in boreal forests and sub-alpine/alpine meadows in the province, called Calypso Bulbosa, or the Fairy Slipper orchid. I’ve seen them hiking in Whistler and around Manning Park but apparently I picked the only one that somehow found its way to the creek by my yard.

Even as a woman in my forties, I’ll never forget the feeling of regret of my action. I can’t go back and unpick that flower, but I can apply what I learned  in this stark lesson elsewhere. Sadly, I don’t often see that need to reflect in government.

They say hindsight is 20/20- and perhaps it is, but it only serves a purpose if you learn and act accordingly. Otherwise it’s about as useful as smoke in the wind.

For example, the housing and affordability crisis in Vancouver. While it’s still making the news, it’s anything but a new problem. Looking back there have been signs and complaints years for years but to what result? Not much until it now-again-makes the news and politicians muse solutions,spurred only act when public outrage reaches a level that can’t be ignored.

In Delta, farmland is once again under threat of expropriation in a time when drought and climate change is threatening crops elsewhere,creating higher prices in supermarket for many products. Looking back, this isn’t new either, yet I can foresee the day when politicians look back and go:”What the hell were we thinking??” Once that land is gone, it’s gone. Do we want to risk our food security at a local level?

Surrey is still, rampantly deforesting to build and there are stories popping up now of new homes on ALR land approved without due process. The pressures of phenomenal growth without keeping pace with vital social infrastructure is starting to show in ongoing issues around the city. Roads are in crumbles in many areas, yet this has been known and allowed willingly to fester for years. Playing catch-up is never a fun game when it comes to a community.

Forest fires last year were a massive concern, but has the province learned anything from past events? Have forest communities been built differently, more safely? Is scrub being removed, controlled burns being conducted,and are crews sent out early and aggressively enough? According to some people I’ve talked to, no. Communities need to be asking why.

And Site C, the project that I don’t just believe is wrong, I know it’s wrong. 12,000 years of human history gone, farmland, First Nations treaty lands and an economic nightmare that will weigh on my childrens children.

It’s as much about learning from our past, as it is, taking care of the basics. I don’t like the words, shoulda, woulda, coulda….Sometimes you have to take a break, look at what you know and where you have been, so you can figure out the best way forward, for everyone.

Because although I believe it is never too late to change course and head in the right direction, it’s equally true that sometimes you only get one opportunity to really get it right. 

And do you really want to take that chance?

“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing.”~ Theodore Roosevelt

Denial, deflect, discredit.

When I published the photos of the conditions of just three of the 219 retaining walls on the Sea to Sky Highway last year, the Ministry of Transportation said the issue was merely cosmetic, and that the walls are inspected annually. 

Then the news that in fact a fourth retaining wall needed significant  structural repairs such as soil anchors installed, along with a new reinforced wall face. Work would take 6 months. Residents below the wall were rightfully angry at the inconvenience,and distrustful of the contradiction between the need for repairs… and the word that everything was fine.

NDP transportation critic Claire Trevena had some questions for Transportation Minister Todd Stone in the legislature earlier this week, and I promised a transcript for you. Better yet,Ms.Trevena has posted a video so that you may see for yourself the questions Ms. Trevena asked… and the answers Mr. Stone gave.

I’m not sure whose questions he was answering,but they certainly weren’t the ones she was asking.

This is your government in action. He denied, deflected and then tried to discredit because he did not want to answer these questions. Nor was he ordered to answer the question despite his foray into the Netherlands of his mapped route of deflection.

It wasn’t until much later that Minister Stone advised media Kiewit and the S2S Transportation Group  would be covering all the costs for the repairs,and that ” making repairs like this to a project just five years after its completion is normal.

Actually, according to project documents, the design lifespan for these retaining walls is 75 years:

Pg 6 herehttp://www.partnershipsbc.ca/pdf/sts-construction-drawings-16-nov-06.pdf

Pg 4 here: http://conf.tac-atc.ca/english/resourcecentre/readingroom/conference/conf2009/pdf/Holmes.pdf

Installing soil anchors that help hold the wall in place, and building an entirely new reinforced wall face, are not normal, routine repairs. It would be comparable to buying a brand new home only to move in and a year later, find out the foundation needs to be re-done.

Would you consider that normal? No.

And lets not forget those Ministry of Transportation emails I have contradicting the first public claim that walls are inspected annually – made last year – and Stones new statement that staff are inspecting things daily around the province.

Or that according to that same Ministry employee, Kiewit found no changes or anything of concern with the walls in question.

Which is more than likely the reason why Kiewit and the S2S Transportation Group is on the hook now which for what is clearly a defective wall.

Some of you might be wondering why this matters, or why this really pisses me off so much, so let me tell you. If you don’t care, move along.

I’ve always been a bit of a policy wonk who endlessly thinks of ways to make a better province. So, back in 2008 when I was really more than a bit peeved that the Golden Ears and the Port Mann was to be tolled, while the Sea to Sky highway was not, I started doing some research to find out why those decisions were made.

In my view then, it was ridiculous that the Golden Ears was tolled while the Sea to Sky was not. A responsible government would take advantage of the traffic out to one of our most scenic drives and tourist destinations, make it resident/business exempt and charge tolls: you want to play, you have to pay. I feel the same way now,but sadly the last Liberal government signed away the right to toll that highway on the P3 contract.

By October 2009, still developing my contacts and sources, I had yet to find out why that highway wasn’t tolled. And again, I called for tolls on that highway as a source of revenue for this province.   ( of course no one listened to me back then, I was just a blogger… : )
It wasn’t until 2010 that sources in the industry revealed to me the reason why it was never tolled… and never would be until the contract with the P3 partner was up.

And that was the beginning of the now infamous Shadow Toll series that ended up receiving national coverage courtesy of Mark Hume of the Globe and Mail. 

I had received confidential documents from insiders to the deal that had  signed confidentiality agreements not to speak about the project details until it was done. And when it was done, they revealed all, in conferences, in bulletins and much more. Financiers bragged of the lucrative nature of the shadow tolls… something our government affectionately refers to as ” vehicle usage payments”.  The private partner makes so much money on this highway, that the financer sold their share to a private fund a couple of years ago.

Now, every time you or I drive that highway, we inadvertently help make a reliable and strong rate of return on other people’s retirement investments. In a wobbly world economy, P3 projects like this highway are considered a very safe investment.

But I digress.

In the face of all this documented, now public evidence,  our government when confronted, lied to the press, taking advantage of the lack of specific industry and contract terminology knowledge they had. They said it wasn’t true.

I couldn’t believe it. (If you care to spend a bit of time rehashing all of it, head over to the Best Of page where  it is still listed. http://lailayuile.com/best-of/)

There were more stories uncovered that again, were denied, deflected and the effort to discredit was intense. And it still is whenever a column or blog post hits home. Reporters often like to say when the fire is incoming over your shoulder you know you are close to your target: there is trash talk, there are rumours,anything to deflect the attention from the story at hand.

Just like Todd Stones response to Claire Trevena. He won’t simply say the contractor screwed up and we are likely going to have some serious repairs coming all over this highway but we don’t want to talk about that…..because it opens a massive barrel of worms no government anywhere would want to talk about.

Ask Quebec. http://www.macleans.ca/news/canada/montreal-is-falling-down/

He starts talking about how the NDP had issues or opposed projects while the Liberals built them. And on. And then some more.

And he never does answer how it is that a highway that cost so much damn money, is needing serious structural repairs after only 5 years.

Nor does he take the chance to negate all of this by providing the inspection reports that Kiewit conducted or agreeing to an independent agency review of those walls.

Why does this matter?

Because the funny thing about retaining walls is that it can be pretty hard to predict what going on behind them. Kiewit already did substandard work on one retaining wall on the Port Mann Project that had to be rebuilt. And court cases resulted following the collapse of of a highway widening project retaining wall that collapsed during construction in California. And while the walls on the sea to sky may not be in danger of collapsing,the province refuses to be straightforward about any of this.

So,yes, those inspection reports of Kiewits on these retaining walls do matter. Because like the shadow toll story, this one is becoming rife with contradictions,spin and deflections.

But what do I know? I’m just a writer, not a transportation minister.

Extensive repair work planned for Sea to Sky retaining wall – one year after problems on 3 others first reported here.

Breaking news by Dave White of News 1130 yesterday, after receiving a tip on a work order given to West Vancouver residents of work on a retaining wall:

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – Roughly five years after a major rebuild was completed, News1130 has learned the Sea to Sky Highway already needs significant repairs.

A retaining wall in West Vancouver is causing problems.

It’s just north of the Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal, above Pasco Road, a small, residential road with remote access.

A construction bulletin was sent by the province to people living on that road on April 8th, telling them soil anchors need to be installed, and a new-reinforced wall face needs to be constructed.

For people living in the area, this means no access to their homes for eight hours a day from this time next week until the end of September.

The Sea to Sky Highway was largely rebuilt by contractors Peter Kiewit and Sons for the Olympics, completed in 2009.

This is not the first retaining wall built by Kiewit on the South Coast that has needed repair. Back in 2011, a retaining wall in Coquitlam as part of the Highway One expansion had to be rebuilt.

It was April 30th, 2014 when I first broke the story of how troubling photos of 3 other retaining walls on the Sea to Sky highway,had prompted the Ministry of Transportation to re-inspect all of the walls: http://lailayuile.com/2014/04/30/troubling-photos-spark-ministry-of-transportation-inspections-of-sea-to-sky-retaining-walls-creating-new-concerns-over-kiewit-construction/

The Ministry of Transportation is investigating the condition of at least three MSE (Mechanically Stabilized Earth) retaining walls along the Sea to Sky Highway, according to sources close to the project.

This action finally comes after specific Ministry employee’s received the photos shown below – in February of this year – that show clear flaws, deficiencies and structural concerns that sources indicate out-of-spec walls. Major defects show large open gaps in the concrete panels, water seepage behind walls, walls that are “out of batter” ( leaning the wrong way) and possible vertical movement of the walls. *terminology link found here for reference.

In some areas, the gaps are so wide that the tongue and groove elements are no longer meshed and it is possible to reach in and feel the geotextile cloth behind. While the photos were taken earlier this year in a cold snap, follow-up visits during rainy weather have shown very little water coming out of installed drainage pipes installed for such purpose, and a build up of water behind the wall with seepage from under the wall in other areas.

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The response from the Ministry at that time was that they had investigated all the walls, and that it was merely a cosmetic issue. The BCNDP did not comment at that time, although they were fully apprised of the situation.

In November of 2014, I followed up that post with another, with excerpts from emails indicating that Kiewit – the builder of the highway- had inspected their own work:

http://lailayuile.com/2014/11/27/sea-to-sky-retaining-wall-questions-continue-as-internal-emails-indicate-kiewit-inspected-their-own-work/

In May of this year ministry officials stated that they had inspected the walls following receipt of the photos.

However,email correspondence from a Ministry of Transportation operations manager in September of this year,indicated it was actually highway builder Kiewit, that had inspected and reviewed the walls:

“I am out of town at the moment but wanted to give you a quick update.  We just received some information from Peter Keiwett regarding the walls in Horseshoe Bay.

Their investigation and review did not note any changes or concerns with the walls.

We are reviewing what was submitted.” 

I contacted the operations manager in question, “to confirm whether or not MOTH( ministry of transportation and highways) had reviewed the Kiewit inspections of the MSE( mechanically stabilized earth) retaining walls on the Sea to Sky, and what the findings were.
Has the ministry done their own inspection since the photos were taken?”

His response:

Thank you for getting in touch with me on the status of the retaining walls built as part of the Sea to Sky project.  To answer your question, Yes our team have reviewed the correspondence/documentation and walls along the Upper Levels.

 I’ll also note that the walls underwent an inspection in 2013 and another routine inspection is planned for 2018, as per the Ministry’s standard frequency of every five years for this type of structure.  There were no significant structural issues identified during the inspections.”

No ‘significant’ structural issues…. just minor ones.  On a highway that is only 5 years old.

I asked then:

The ministry representative and operation manager have not responded further to the following questions:

1) What structural issues-minor or not- have been discovered and what is the plan for remediation?

2) Are any costs involved covered by warranty  or does the province absorb the cost?

3) Who has signed off on the integrity of the wall?

To this day, and this new story, there are no answers to those questions.

Today NDP transportation critic Claire Trevena brought up the most recent repair in the legislature,asking why repairs are needed on what is essentially a brand new highway and asked the Minister of Transportation Todd Stone to submit the safety reports/audit of the retaining walls.

Minister Stone replied that at times mitigating work is done on all corridors in the province( making this sound like routine maintenance), and completely and quite shamefully evaded her questions on the safety/inspection reports by talking about how the NDP opposed many projects in the province! ( As one reader asked online: Is the new Liberal version of Stone-walling? Clever!)

And that was it. ( I’ll post a transcript as it becomes available)

The work that the ministry is conducting on the Pasco Road retaining wall  are not minor repairs. This is 5 months of work to not only install soil anchors, but to construct a new reinforced facing.

Soil anchors installed in retaining walls after they are built, are done so to reinforce and repair retaining walls damaged by lateral loads, or those showing signs of stress or failure.

Here’s an example of what they look like, installed in a retaining wall on a Hwy 1 overpass years after construction

soilanchors

The anchors are drilled into the wall, typically at an angle to provide support and prevent further movement.

One would not expect these kinds of repairs typically in a highway only 5 years old, which leads me back to my original posts ,and questions linked to above.

There are 216 retaining walls built into this highway, and the three I detail in photos at the above links show alarming changes- for the amount of money this highway cost, somebody has some explaining to do.

Was this shoddy construction? Was it rushed? Sources in my prior posts gave a few ideas- I invite you to go back and read both posts.

Minister of  Transportation Todd Stone needs to immediately release the safety inspection reports of all 219 retaining walls along the sea to sky highway, along with a full explanation as to why, on a project billed as a marvel of engineering, after only 5 years, structural repairs are needed at all.

Kiewit, the builder of this highway, has come under examination in the past for a failed retaining wall on the Lougheed highway not built to standards  – something that the minister might want to take into consideration: http://journalofcommerce.com/Home/News/2011/8/Highway-retaining-wall-being-rebuilt-in-Coquitlam-British-Columbia-JOC046056W/

They’ve also come under fire for safety violations on various projects: http://lailayuile.com/2014/12/19/kiewit-general-comitted-willful-and-serious-safety-violations-in-washington-state-accident-fined-150000/

I’ll keep updating this story as it develops, but tune back in tomorrow, as I bring yet another update, on yet another Kiewit built project.

The Commonsense Canadian gets to the heart of the matter on Site C approval.

There’s really not much I could add to this, Damien Gillis has wrapped this up so well – I highly recommend reading this fine post. Here are some excerpts:

” …the Liberal Government excluded the public’s independent energy watchdog, the BC Utilities Commission, from reviewing the project. The regulator was built precisely for this purpose: to examine proposed energy projects and plans based on their need and value to taxpayers and ratepayers. ”

“… the Liberal government set the rules for the review process, then broke them as soon as they became inconvenient.”

“At first, Site C was to power BC’s homes, but when we became a solid net exporter of power in recent years – according to BC Stats – the rationale morphed into powering energy-intensive LNG projects. But BC Hydro undermined that statement during the JRP hearings, saying it was instead to export excess power to California – likely a money-losing proposition for BC.

Then, just last week, Christy Clark went back on her LNG argument, admitting that Site C was notin fact required for that industry. ”

*Read the rest of this post, HERE: http://commonsensecanadian.ca/site-c-dam-govt-ignores-rules-faces-multiple-lawsuits/

My only addition would be to ask these two questions that I put forth yesterday, online:

Why is it that the province has the money for a project toppling the $8 billion mark, when mayors have been forced to propose an increase in the provincial sales tax in order to fund transit improvements?   ( meanwhile seismic upgrades to schools haven’t been completed, it was pointed out) 

~and~

Considering it has been accepted that temporary foreign workers would need to be used in part to build any LNG projects in the province, who exactly is going to be filling the alleged 10,000 jobs the premier has promoted this project would provide? 

Sea to Sky retaining wall questions continue as ministry employee emails indicate Kiewit inspected their own work.

With ongoing rainstorms and occasional flooding that has hit many areas on the north shore recently, water drainage and erosion is a concern to many. This of course jogged my memory to look for an update on a story I broke earlier this year.

On April 30th, I posted a story with photos that illustrated  many visible concerns  and defects of several retaining walls along the Sea to Sky Highway in West Vancouver/Lions Bay area.

Among them, bulging walls, block movement, blocked drains and more. Before you continue, I suggest a quick look back to get yourself up to speed on this, or refresh your memory:  http://lailayuile.com/2014/04/30/troubling-photos-spark-ministry-of-transportation-inspections-of-sea-to-sky-retaining-walls-creating-new-concerns-over-kiewit-construction/

The ministries response at that time to the defects identified in the photos was they had done their own inspection,the issue was cosmetic and did not affect the structural integrity of the walls.

However, further photos taken more recently continued to show outward bulges in the walls-something recognized by both government and industry as a potential indicator of stress  or deterioration that should be assessed and monitored.

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As mentioned above,in May of this year ministry officials stated that they had inspected the walls following receipt of the photos.

However,email correspondence from a Ministry of Transportation operations manager in September of this year,indicated it was actually highway builder Kiewit, that had inspected and reviewed the walls:

“I am out of town at the moment but wanted to give you a quick update.  We just received some information from Peter Keiwett regarding the walls in Horseshoe Bay.

Their investigation and review did not note any changes or concerns with the walls.

We are reviewing what was submitted.” 

I contacted the operations manager in question, “to confirm whether or not MOTH( ministry of transportation and highways) had reviewed the Kiewit inspections of the MSE( mechanically stabilized earth) retaining walls on the Sea to Sky, and what the findings were.
Has the ministry done their own inspection since the photos were taken?”

His response:

Thank you for getting in touch with me on the status of the retaining walls built as part of the Sea to Sky project.  To answer your question, Yes our team have reviewed the correspondence/documentation and walls along the Upper Levels.

 I’ll also note that the walls underwent an inspection in 2013 and another routine inspection is planned for 2018, as per the Ministry’s standard frequency of every five years for this type of structure.  There were no significant structural issues identified during the inspections.”

 

The operations manager has not responded to further questions clarifying the statement that ” no ‘significant’ structural issues” were identified, which seems to indicate that structural issues may have been identified but not considered to be significant in nature.

To summarize, the province initially stated the defects were all cosmetic in May. The September email from the operation manager stated Kiewit’s inspection found no changes or concerns, and now the response from that same operations manager states no ‘significant’ structural issues.

The multi-million dollar question remains: what exactly is the problem with these bulging and out of plumb retaining walls?

I question the process that allows the builder Kiewit to inspect their own work prior to a full review by provincial employees or engineers.

Kiewit was the builder of the now infamous retaining wall on Lougheed Highway that failed and finally had to be partially torn down and rebuilt after it was determined it would not meet provincial building standards. http://www.journalofcommerce.com/Home/News/2011/8/Highway-retaining-wall-being-rebuilt-in-Coquitlam-British-Columbia-JOC046056W/

Kiewit also made the news pertaining to a retaining wall collapse in California, in which Kiewit, a subcontractor and the project designer are all suing each other: Kiewit claims the product was defective, while the subcontractor accuses Kiewit of inadequate drainage design and installation.http://www.dailynews.com/general-news/20131019/san-diego-405-freeway-work-delayed-by-faulty-retaining-walls

And of course, who can forget the American Kiewit story that prompted the Ministry of Transportation to issue a statement of confidence in the companies involvement in many provincial projects, including the Port Mann bridge project http://lailayuile.com/2012/11/10/port-mann-bridge-builder-kiewit-faces-construction-concerns-in-the-u-s/

Pennsylvania DOT ( Department of Transportation) has a stringent guideline for examination of MSE retaining walls and cross indexing the issues shown in the photos with the following list, several indicators can be checked off:

-bulging, bowing, panel offset, visibility of backfill or geotextile fabric, variation in joint spacing,

Pennsylvania DOTstandards

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The province previously assured the public the walls are safe.

The question that taxpayers should now be asking- in particular since this wall is only about 5 years old- is whether or not the flaws that have become evident were built into the wall from the very beginning.

( interesting to note here the private partner was never able to get the electronic sensing equipment installed in the highway to work properly either, as reported on page 24 of the BC auditors report , linked to on the Auditor Generals site here: http://www.bcauditor.com/pubs/2012/report4/audits-two-p3-projects-sea-sky-corridor and here http://lailayuile.com/2010/11/18/sea-to-sky-operator-awards-transtoll-technical-advisory-contract-to-ensure-accurate-shadow-toll-vehicle-counts-despite-the-government-making-repeatedly-and-vehementlydenying-their-existance/ )

The ministry representative and operation manager have not responded further to the following questions:

1) What structural issues-minor or not- have been discovered and what is the plan for remediation?

2) Are any costs involved covered by warranty  or does the province absorb the cost?

3) Who has signed off on the integrity of the wall?