Rainy day thoughts from the island

At long last the rains have returned to my portion of the island – for now at least – and since I am sequestered at home today with a child contagious with either strep or mono, I find myself with a bit of rare time on my hands. Usually I am hesitant to say goodbye to summer, but this year I find the welcome cool nights and shorter days soothing after such a long, drought plagued year.

I have a few things that have been on my mind, so let’s get to it, starting with…

Site C

Over the summer I have received a few sets of photos to update on Site C, but my focus was on a family member  seriously ill in hospital so was unable to post. I thought I would wait until the long over due April-June 2019 Site C quarterly report to the BCUC was issued, but based on what I have seen and been told, that report will require a post of its own.

As many know, work is carrying on at the site with the diversion tunnels and they are beginning to create the foundations for the dam itself. Which is going to be attached to a buttress on the problematic north slope I have visually documented here for years.

The latest pics ( these already found their way to social media but worthy of posting here as well for posterity) again show evidence of water seeping through the north slope. It’s not something that can be hidden in photos- the gravel seams are high in iron, and when water seeps through this material, it picks up the iron which then rusts when exposed to air. These are the orange streaks seen on the banks in the photos below.

North bank wide shot

North bank erosion still evident
BC Hydro is on record as stating the bank is stable and monitored, however the ravine line erosion trench that I reported on earlier this summer, is still evident and likely to increase with fall rains.
Diversion tunnel entrance
This is the entrance to the diversion tunnels the river will flow through to allow dam construction. Water continues to seep along this gravel layer leaving rust stains as evidence of a consistent flow.
north axis of the dam
This is the exact location of where the dam will be attached to the buttress on the north slope. Water is seeping down the face, and pooling where the wall of dam will be situated
Diversion tunnel exit
This is the the exit of the diversion tunnels – the tunnels will divert the river around the dam construction until it is complete and the reservoir is filled. There is again, water seeping through the bank along these gravel seams and appear as rust stains everywhere water has come through.

 

That gravel seam runs the entire length of the north bank, and as I detailed earlier this summer here, acts like a wick, or a drainage channel for water within the bank. Its quite evident that the concrete slurry they are coating the bank with to stop erosion isn’t stopping water from leaching and the heaviest amount of water seepage appears on photo 3, which is the north axis of the actual dam wall itself. There is no way that ‘shotcrete’ will hold up when frost hits, freezes that water and the ice expands in every crack. I also wonder what will happen when the reservoir is filled if the banks slough into the water, exposing the gravel seam underwater. Will it follow the seam along the bank like my french drain takes water out of my yard?

I’ll say this again: Horgan will never stop this dam and one day we will be having an inquiry in BC as to why it was such a boondoggle, like they have with Muskrat Falls. I look forward then, to hearing Horgan explain why he continued like Dwight Ball had to. Continuing to post these updates now, acts as a record  of facts and is the only way we can keep things accountable. It is impossible to maintain costs and the budget under these circumstances. Particularly when I receive emails like this, from a trusted source who has assisted me on stories about other major project, but who disagrees with me on site C:

Hi Laila

Let me start with…I’m not against the Site C project.
However…there are safety issues.
Friends of mine work there.
Workplace accidents large and small are rampant.
Eg….a large haul truck hitting a parked articulating truck/ rock truck/ wiggle wagon.
Cause…. cocaine impairment.
Or…large haul truck dumps load in wrong pile…panics ..then drives with the box UP…and crashes into overhead conveyor belt.
Or.. workers, truck drivers, and excavator are getting hired for top pay… And then sitting around all day because management is disorganized..and can’t get asses into seats…to move dirt.
Good supervisors don’t last…most quit on first shift because of the chaotic management…so then the C- minus guys take over.
So…who is minding the store on the accident trends…and who is overseeing the dollars spent vs production? Will need to sidestep the corporate mantra of ” on time and on budget”
Based on the worksafe portion of the last quarterly report, I’d say his warning is to be heeded. The nature of some of the worksafe issues were boggling (like not having a method of keeping track who was in or out of the tunnels). And did I mention this?
Oh gee. That’s unfortunate timing…read his thread here: https://mobile.twitter.com/INTEGRITYBC/status/1172254738395607040
But let’s move on to…

The curious case of Dock Currie

It’s been a helluva interesting start to the federal election from what little I have seen… Justin Trudeaus media bus hit the Liberal campaign plane ( the irony of it all, since LPC members blame the media for everything ), Scheer’s faux poverty schtick is being fact checked, and the Greens seem to be self immolating… ( not so sure the ‘ not a war room fast response team’ thing is actually helping them)

And then I saw this…. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/second-ndp-candidate-kamloops-riding-steps-down-1.5279583   

The NDP campaign this election seems to be a train wreck and I haven’t paid attention enough to say why I think that might be. It’s sad because they have some exceptional candidates. But when I saw the reason Currie was asked to step down was over an interaction with pro pipeline people in which he said something about wanting to punch one of them, it didn’t surprise me, in fact I wondered why all the other stuff he said and did on twitter wasn’t mentioned.

Anyone who was or has been active on twitter in the #BCpoli stream, particularly during the 2017 provincial election, knows how nasty Curries interactions were with anyone he disagreed with. He attacked site C opponents who didn’t believe Horgan would stop it, allies working to defeat Clark, BC Greens, Green supporters, and I found myself on the receiving end of a very aggressive and vulgar attack once or twice where other twitter users stepped in to intervene. This was not an occasional, flippant instance as the pro pipeline incident is being portrayed, aggressive behavior was routine for him.

Curious as to why all those tweets weren’t mentioned ( or how they just picked those two as the worst), I went to twitter to search specific terms and instances I recalled well ( you can do this without a twitter account) and found most tweets have been scrubbed from his account. In some cases when searching specific terms, the replies to them remain which give an idea of the original content that is now gone. I asked another user to look who remembered all this as well, with no luck. In fact much of 2016/2017 content is gone.

I don’t think everything one says or tweets should be held against a potential candidate if it is shown to be a rare or exceptional instance ( unless its violent, racist, bigoted). People change, learn and grow as we age and gain more life experience and I do hope Currie has in fact left those days behind, because that kind of interaction has no place in politics, regardless if you are left, right or in between. But when it’s not a rare instance then excusing those actions gives a voice for others to do so with no consequence. That wasn’t passion. That was hostility and there is a vast difference.

Therein lies the lesson for partisans involved in this federal election. Acting like an aggressive jerk on social media pushes people out of the process. You do not need to call names, threaten, be misogynistic or vile to get your point across or debate. It doesn’t help your cause, any cause. Many will disagree with me, but remember how this all looks to average people who aren’t poli geeks. Debate passionately, heartily, factually. Leave the nastiness out of it.

LNG IN BC 

I saw something pass by my feed that made me chuckle today:

I couldn’t have said it better myself.  The article he links to, can be read here and I too am glad to see this calling out of the NDP’s continuance of BC Liberal policy and direction. https://www.nationalobserver.com/2019/09/11/analysis/british-columbia-critics-see-push-greenwash-natural-gas

If one had a crystal ball and could see 10 or 15 years down the road, I wonder who will have been standing on the right side of history? Those heavily subsidizing LNG shipments to Asia with ever falling royalties being paid to government coffers ( Norm Farrell has done so much excellent work on the continuing debacle)… or those who advocated, pushed and forged ahead with solar projects? https://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffmcmahon/2019/07/01/new-solar–battery-price-crushes-fossil-fuels-buries-nuclear/#217992415971

Last but not least I leave you with…

The state of forestry in BC

In one line? It’s a mess. And to be brutally honest it’s been a mess for as long as I have been blogging and probably longer. Those of us who actually followed forest policy when the BC Liberals were in power, remember exactly how nearsighted forest policy was under their leadership, and how long they were warned it wasn’t sustainable.  That’s why anytime I hear or see a BC Liberal MLA trying to grandstand on this issue talking about the NDP have neglected this, I shake my head and cringe.

Not. One. BC Liberal. Has any credibility on this issue, because nearly everyone of them was in power during the time we had in BC to actually create a sustainable plan when the pine beetle crisis first started. I am from the north and I have seen the vast endless swaths of dead trees firsthand. It made me cry the first time I was up by Babine lake when the trees were standing dead, or clear cut where cuts had started. Seriously, Bob Simpson is the most accurate person on this issue in BC, and this letter he penned is factual and accurate. https://www.quesnelobserver.com/opinion/letter-to-the-editor-forest-sector-crisis-could-have-been-planned-for/

So now that we have determined that if you have a Liberal MLA, you need to ask them about Bob’s letter and why they didn’t plan then, let’s talk about the NDP. Why are they continuing on many fronts, to allow unsustainable forest practices to continue, and why, since they have been in power for 2 years now, didn’t they begin to create and utilize a transition place immediately? They knew what was coming, they sat in opposition watching this happen. I blogged about this back in May in an open letter to John Horgan.

I know a lot of people out of work now in BC. It’s not their fault no one in government planned a sustainable future for this. The focus must now be on a transition path to second and third growth industry, and assistance to retrain if needed.

Enough said now, I’ve gone on too long again!

That’s the issue with so much time between posts, I end up having more to say than I anticipate when I start!!  Fall is coming and another group of geese has just gone over to the  salt marsh, honking their arrival in formation. And I think of Mary Olivers poem and how that’s just the perfect end to this post. Enjoy the last of summer or beginning of autumn,depending on where you are. I have a feeling winter will be wicked here on the island this year…

 

Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body

love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain

are moving across the landscapes,

over the prairies and the deep trees,

the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,

are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting—

over and over announcing your place

in the family of things.

20190906_210046

In praise of blackberries this BC Day long weekend

When I was a child growing up in northern BC, summers were short and as much work as they were fun. Life required that one start preparing for the next winter, pretty much right after the last winter finished, and a big part of August was harvesting and freezing/canning fruits,veggies and fish. Huckleberries were my favourite harvest berry growing up, but not the small red kind that grows on the coast and my island home now. No, we picked buckets of large deep blue huckleberries that grew in among the pine trees, berries that when crushed left a deep ruby red stain one couldn’t scrub off. Ever creative and with no access to makeup as a young girl, I remember carefully peeling back the skin and rubbing the ruby juice on my lips to create ” natural lipstick “, posing in the mirror quite happy with the result. ( it’s no surprise that this very unique and rich, deep, berry colour is still my favourite hue)

Fast forward many years to my arrival on the west coast…and the discovery of blackberries…

Imagine my delight to discover mounds of these incredible berries literally growing everywhere…in empty lots, in alleys, hanging along fences. I don’t recall the very first time I ate one, but I imagine it wasn’t much different than my reaction is now, every time I pop one of those lush morsels into my mouth…my eyes close involuntarily as the berry bursts on my tongue, sensory overload as the sweet and sometimes tart juice hits every taste bud….

That was the beginning of a love affair with this beautiful berry that many consider a pest for its overwhelming growth and ability to survive where not much else can. They make beautiful pies,( best served with vanilla bean ice cream), the most delicious jam, are perfect in muffins and of course, straight off the bush as the late Mary Oliver describes so beautifully in her poem above. In fact, blackberries are a good source for many critters, like this bee who landed on this juicy blackberry I had just picked and was about to eat! He took his share then flew off,never once concerned of my presence.

It is without surprise then, that this BC Day long weekend you would find me deep in a blackberry thicket alongside a country road, arms scratched as I reach to fill my bucket so I can freeze this ( free!) bounty for the dark wet days of our island winters. And for the record…blackberry juice works equally well as lip stain..😉

Wherever you are in this incredible province we call home, I hope you are enjoying the simpler things in life. Happy BC Day.

Placement of Site C work camp defines the term ‘calculated risk’

As someone who has closely monitored site c construction, I have always wondered why the work camp was placed right above the problematic north slope. It didn’t seem that bad of a location at first, but as they began excavation and the severity of the geotechnical conditions turned the slope into one disaster after another, it really seemed odd.

However once the massive Old Fort slide happened a few kilometers away I really just shook my head every time I saw how close the excavation was to the edge of the buildings. It literally skirts the edge. If anything happens to compromise this slope further…I wouldnt want to imagine it.

Most of us here have commented on this several times in different posts. Zoom in below and you can see for yourself.

20190717_133449

For contrast, this is what the north bank looked like before the excavation to make it stable occurred, from the Narwhal https://thenarwhal.ca/exclusive-photos-bc-government-frantic-push-site-c-dam-point-of-no-return/

The sheer amount of material taken away to date, is staggering.

Well, thanks to my friend Destiny who also wondered why it was so close and went looking through BC Hydro’s EIS for the excavation plans for this slope, we now know the work camp actually isn’t where it was originally supposed to be located!

Not only that, we also now know that the excavation plans for the north slope showed an entirely different location further away from the most unstable ( by their own engineering assessment) slope in the construction zone.

In her own words:

“It’s peculiar to me that the viewpoint and man camp were built in a place different than the drawings they submitted for the environmental impact statement. According to their own drawings, overlayed on actual google image of the site currently, that bank will need to be sloped past the edge of the existing camp and viewpoint in order to be stabilized. Why did they put everything closer to the most unstable bank in the construction zone than they planned? 🤷‍♀️”

Below I will post the original overlay on it’s own, then I will post her image in which she has placed it exactly over the exact Google image.

From BC hydros EIA submission, Volume 1 Figures, page 48:

The yellow portion that starts in the upper/mid left and goes across the bank, crossed with red lines, is the planned north slope excavation required to achieve ( in theory) stability, as per plans submitted.

20190724_072838

Now, below, is the above map overlayed on a current  Google image of the construction site.

Look closely.

To the top left you will see a bright green square showing the planned original location of the work camp.

To the immediate left of that square, you will  see the white rectangular outlines of buildings  in the actual current location of the work camp. They are quite different locations.

This  is where it gets interesting.

You will also notice that the yellow excavation zone map now overlaps on top of the buildings, actually cuts off the lower left corner of the main building, engulfs the portable work building and continues along the bank to totally excavate the current location  of the viewpoing on the left hand side.!! There is potentially a lot more excavation required on  the north slope according to this.

20190725_100858

This image shows the current viewpoint for comparison above. It would be completely gone if they have to excavate as much as planned.

 

I did some asking around since Hydro doesn’t like talking to me and I don’t care to file an FOI, and it sounds like Hydro couldn’t end up buying the land they originally planned on as the location of the green square above…so they just built it where it is now – partially in the planned excavation zone!

Considering what’s happened with that slope, and the anecdotes from workers who wish to remain unnamed, it seems a calculated risk. I’d sure be interested to know who made that call. Is this what happens when a premier vows to get something past the point of no return and rushes things?

Its clear they haven’t managed run off and water erosion well and it’s not a new issue. A comment left recently on Facebook supports this.

20190725_174759

I’m sure it’s all fine though, because the Site C pr guy Dave Conway says everything is fine, the slope is stable (🙄) and they are ( still ) working on drainage.

That’s why the photo of the  sign on the fence,  at the Site C viewpoint just above the North slope at the far left side of the excavation ( also built in the planned stability excavation zone ), made me laugh profusely….sigh. That moment when the ‘stable’ north bank needs an ‘unstable bank’ sign on it…🤣

IMG_3397

I tell ya, you can’t make this stuff up….moving on though, I did get a pic of the mostly ignored south bank construction  for you, which appears to be showing some slumping when you zoom on, in the black material above the service bay

IMG_3398

So there you have it. The story of why that camp is literally on the edge of the north slope. And the million dollar question now is:

Who decided this was a good idea and what happens if we continue to get crappy rains when fall comes and  they do need to flatten that slope further in line with the planned excavation design on their diagram above?

We are well into 2019 and there are still water and erosions issues on this slope. I’m told the only fix is to install more drains and remove more material to flatten the slope further.  Kinda hard to do that with a building in the excavation zone…..

But hey, what do I know? 😉

More details from new pics on north Bank of Site C

The Peace got a break from the rainstorms of late and I have some new pics today to follow up on last weeks photo post, that are showing a bit more detail on erosion areas now that the bank is a bit drier on the surface. Its clear there is erosion, washouts, and gullies to varying degrees all over the slope.

When you zoom in, you can see a lot of failure spots in the gravel seam just above the diversion inlet portal. If that fails, the next layer above is clay and will come down. As there is forecast rain still ahead – and the rain that’s been falling has often come in heavy downbursts – there will be more cutting in and erosion in these areas.

How much is the continual mitigation of historically well known geotechnical issues in this area of the valley costing us? And I say ‘us’ because we are all going to pay for this in one manner or another.


In 2011 the cost estimate for Site C was pegged at $7.9 billion.

In 2014 that was bumped up to $8.3 billion

In 2017 when Horgan and his caucus announced their decision to continue the project that has been plagued with delays, ongoing geotechnical problems, redesigns and lawsuits, that cost had already escalated to a ridiculous $10.7 billion.

However, in 2018, an affidavit filed in Supreme Court as a result of the Treaty infringement case  brought to light some questions about who knew costs were escalating and when they knew them in relation to that decision. 

It also revealed that costs could escalate upwards to $12 billion….as detailed by Deloitte.

“The question that comes to mind is: what did BC Hydro know and when did it know it?

Unpacking Site C’s escalating cost overruns in nail-biting detail, Eliesen quotes from statements that BC Hydro made to the B.C. Utilities Commission (BCUC) on August 30 that Site C was “on time and on budget,” and would cost $8.335 billion.

Just thirty-five days later, the affidavit notes that Chris O’Riley, BC Hydro’s president and chief operating officer, informed the BCUC that BC Hydro had encountered some “geological and construction challenges” and the project’s cost had climbed by $610 million — due to a one-year delay in meeting a scheduled diversion of the Peace River to build the dam structure.

At the same time, O’Riley informed the commission that Site C’s $440 million Treasury Board reserve had been exceeded by $170 million. That placed Site C’s revised price tag at close to $9 billion, only two years into a nine or ten-year construction project.

“It is my expert opinion that BC Hydro knew, or should have known, when the August 30threport was submitted to the BCUC, that the costs for the project were going to be higher than disclosed,” Eliesen says in his affidavit.

“If BC Hydro knew the costs were reasonably likely to be higher than disclosed, they violated their obligation to the commission to be fully transparent and support the commission’s inquiry. If BC Hydro honestly did not know at the time the August 30 filing took place that costs would escalate, then BC Hydro was not competently managing its project as it claimed.”

Eliesen, who is also the former chair and CEO of Ontario Hydro and the Manitoba Energy Authority, points out that O’Riley subsequently told the BCUC that “nothing has occurred that would suggest to us that we are facing the type of large overruns” speculated in a September 2017 report by Deloitte LLP, one of Canada’s leading auditing firms.

Deloitte concluded that Site C’s price tag could exceed $10 billion and might reach as high as $12.5 billion.

Yet less than two months after O’Riley’s statement, Premier John Horgan announced that Site C’s capital costs had escalated by another $2 billion, or 20 per cent.

Horgan set Site C’s new price tag at $10.7 billion when he said in December that the project would proceed, claiming it was past “the point of no return,” an assertion disputed by project financing experts.

“A paucity of information has been provided as to what has driven the additional $2 billion in project costs,” notes Eliesen.

“Clearly, the budget revision exercise that took place in November determined that the additional $2 billion in cost was warranted, while on October 14, 2017, Mr. O’Riley told the Commission that there would be no further budget increases.”

“Either BC Hydro knew, or should have known, about the looming budget increases related to future contracts.”

 

That story by Narwhal will continue to br something to remember as this project continues, because the lack of transparency with respect to detailed costs is still an issue.

BC Hydro is required to report to the BC Utilities Commission every quarter on the progress of site c. You can find those reports right here: https://www.sitecproject.com/news-and-information/progress-reports-to-the-bcuc

The last report filed covered the period from January 2019 to end of March 2019 – we are still awaiting the most recent report that will cover April to June 2019. However in reading the Jan to March report, its clear the risk for this project to continue to escalate in costs is still very high, and in my assessment of the ongoing reports, very likely.

You can read that full report in PDF format at this link: https://www.sitecproject.com/sites/default/files/00_2019_07_11_BCH_Site_C_RPT_15_PUB_FF.pdf

While Hydro lists two small tables giving a vague overview of costs ( actual expenditures for 2019 have increased as opposed to what was forecast ), Appendixes C,D,and E that cover contracts over $10 million, Project Progress and Detailed Project Expenditure have all been redacted.. and it was only just last January that BC Hydro fought in court, to keep Site C expenditures a secret from the public. 

This is unacceptable and something that the NDP correctly criticized the BC Liberals for when they were in opposition. Everything was a secret. Contracts, once issued, no longer need to be secret. No one else is building a dam in slide prone valley anywhere else in BC, what competitors are they worried about?

Expenditures and project progress shouldn’t be secret either. Perhaps if they had been, past public projects could have been prevented from going grossly over budget. There is absolutely no reason those expenditures should be hidden from public.

My most recent post with the first set of photos, brought Site C back into active discussion again, and has been shared extensively online…particularly since the NDP announced a hefty surplus on the budget.

It’s been suggested that with the changes the NDP have made ,and a surplus announced, that now is the best time to walk away from Site C.  Lindsay Brown has posted some excellent points on twitter that really need to be addressed, like the fact that the Clean Energy Act that exempted Site C from BCUC review, still hasn’t had the section amended that would prevent another Site C from happening again. That was something Auditor General Carol Bellringer nudged the NDP about last year, https://thenarwhal.ca/auditor-general-nudges-b-c-amend-act-exempted-site-c-dam-independent-review/, because as John Horgan once said back while he was energy critic, the act still allows politicians to make decisions around the cabinet table, instead of having the BCUC make decisions and take oversight as it was created to do.

 I would certainly be concerned that other projects considered ‘clean’ might also end up exempted from BCUC review too… just because they can.

There are also concerns about the Auditor General removing the qualification  on BC Hydros statements, when full oversight of Hydro by the BCUC still hasnt occurred.

http://www.bcpolicyperspectives.com/blog/posts/auditor-general-removes-qualification-on-b-c-hydro

It’s time to get serious about all of this. And I totally get that many would rather I just shut up “because BC Liberals”, but guess what?

I don’t want to ever see this happen to another community, clean energy or not. Politicians have no right making decisions that the BC Utilities Commission was created to make.

Horgan and his caucus should never have been allowed to make the decision of continuing the dam or not, when the ultimate cost could reach $12 billion,First Nations are impacted forever, and a unique valley ecosystem is lost forever.

(Horgan and his caucus should  also never have been allowed to exempt health impacts of fracking  from their review that detailed unknown risks because data and monitoring of water and wells was insufficient.  I mention this because site C power may end up powering LNG ) 

Future ratepayers will feel the pain of the increased hydro rates from this white elephant. You and I will bot pay more, while any industrial customers will continue to pay less, because we already know that the NDP will continue to subsidize corporate entities involved with LNG development and gas extraction, because ‘jobs’. I don’t discount the need for good trades work. I do however think there are other projects more worthy that wont involve making foreign corporations profits bigger while our resource royalties drop even more.

No amount of positive action on other files gives the NDP a free pass on LNG, site C or the way they have abandoned everyone dealing with troubling health issues who are living in the gas fields. Read this. And then read every link I have added to this post, and you’ll see why it matters. https://thenarwhal.ca/potential-health-impacts-of-fracking-in-b-c-worry-dawson-creek-physicians/  

Rare cancers. Lung diseases. Should I go on?

I can’t help but think of Erin Brockovich and her fights,  when I think of the how this government exempted the health impacts from the fracking review. I read an article once where she said that she was an advocate for awareness and a persons right to know, because in the absence of truth or knowledge, we all stand helpless to defend ourselves, our families and our health. That’s how I feel about all of this. Site C. Fracking. Shawnigan Lake. It’s starting to add up…and I don’t like the picture it paints. If we don’t know the truth, if we don’t know what’s going on, we can’t fight it effectively.

So what do you do?

Demand better.

Demand answers, demand better policy, and pay attention. Ask for meetings. Ask for the data they used to make their decisions… Because it might be your backyard next time, on a different issue. And who will fight for you then?

 

** Bob Mackin of Breaker News had some interesting tweets sent onto me last night. BC Hydro is still keeping secrets….

https://mobile.twitter.com/theBreakerNews/status/1153891969774440448

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