New Site C photos show continued mitigation efforts on slide prone north slope construction

Finally back to the blog and I apologize for the absence but there is only so much time before winter and I have so much work that must be done outside the new place before fall unleashes its first storms of the season, in addition to my regular work.

Which makes me wonder if the engineers at Site C are praying for an early freeze up north, just so they can get a break from dealing with the slop of geological challenges they face on the north slope.

It was July 21st this year that I first published photos of the failures on the north slope construction of Site C, a mess of slides and water resulting from back to back storms and rain this summer.

Aerial photos taken then showed that a plethora of dikes and terraces in an effort to mitigate the slides and water were failing.

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Locals joked that if it kept up, the new work camp would soon be sliding into the Peace as well, since the area is well-known for slides and the 2009 report from Klohn Crippen Berger Ltd. and SNC-Lavalin Inc. indicated uncertainty.

The areas geological history has also been documented as to the sedimentary makeup and risks, yet Hydro claims all this mess is due to ‘unexpected conditions‘ :

“Key geotechnical risks” spelled out in one unsettling passage in the report include “unexpected shears encountered during construction; deeper than expected relaxation joints; bedding planes worse than expected; larger than expected deterioration of shale bedrock once exposed during construction; and rock rebound/swell.” Sounds expensive.

Hydro says it has taken steps to mitigate those risks, conducting field trials and pressuring contractors to assume some of the financial burden. It has also given contractors leeway “to respond to unexpected ground conditions, potentially through pre-agreed pricing.” Which would put ratepayers on the hook as well.

Nor are these geotechnical concerns merely hypothetical, as the report went on to disclose: “Events associated with this risk have occurred on the North Bank gulley crossing, where unexpected slope failure occurred. B.C. Hydro has been working with the contractor to provide an engineered solution, and expects to address this issue within available funds. Once the main civil works contract is beginning excavation B.C. Hydro will have additional information about this risk.”

One wonders why  Hydro considers these to be unexpected conditions, when the governments own report recommended development of these sites be minimized: 

“a  report commissioned by the Honorable Jack Weisgerber, Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources in 1991. Prepared by the Geological Survey Branch of British Columbia, this report was made without reference to the proposed flooding of the Lower Peace River Valley; rather it was commissioned to examine aggregate exploitation within the lower Peace River region. It urged caution: “Valley slopes throughout the region are subject to slope failure and colluviation, and the development of these sites should be minimized.” (Quaternary Geology and Landforms of Eastern Peace River Region, British Columbia, by N.R. Catto 1991).

Which is what makes these new photos of Site C north slope construction and progress still so interesting. It appears all of the original work done by the contractor has and is being redone in yet another effort to control what many say cannot be controlled….nor should it be.All photos courtesy of Don Hoffman & no flight rules were broken when they were taken. Click on each photo for a larger version.

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In some of the first photos, one can still see small slides and water channels active during construction. And again,despite what Hydro claims, the geological reports from years past clearly indicate these are not unexpected conditions.

How much is the premiers promise to get this project we don’t need past the point of no return, going to cost British Columbians? I’d respectfully suggest to the BC auditor general, to place this front and centre based on what I have shown here in photos.

We should have had a BCUC review, but the premier said no. Energy Minister Bill Bennett said no. But as the knowledgable and wise Arthur Hadland has stated: 

“Instead the decision has been made to build a dam in sedimentary shales surrounded by slippery clays. The shales were mud some 70 million years ago. When you add water and exposure of the shale to air, this supposed bedrock returns to mud. On top of it all, the reservoir is surrounded by Montmorillonite clay soils which will slide when wet.

Are we really going to build a dam on mud? Just google Teton Dam. The Teton Dam was also constructed in a sedimentary basin. The Teton Dam disaster of 1976 and the 2014 Mt. Polley tailings pond dam disaster tell it all. The failure of the Peace River bridge at Taylor in October 1957 was caused by the failure of the shale bedrock base on the north side of the Peace River. (The 1957 Peace River Bridge Collapse, Canadian Geotechnical Society, 2010).


The taxpayers are unintentionally paying for the largest environmental and economic catastrophe of BC’s 21st century.


I’d argue they are paying for it intentionally, thanks to this government. Might want to ask your Liberal MLA’s and their candidates about this, sooner than later because BC Hydro wants Peace valley residents in the path of construction out before Christmas. Happy Holidays eh?


***In other news, I’ve made the difficult decision to step down from the Political Intel panel on the Jon McComb Show as the time slot does not work with my new schedule on a regular basis.  The good news is that I’m working towards having the podcast up and running as soon as possible this fall! Watch for updates and more regular posts as I get back into the swing of things”

38 thoughts on “New Site C photos show continued mitigation efforts on slide prone north slope construction

  1. 8.8 Billion? Try doubling that figure. I do hope Clark and Justin wear it for this disgrace. The Prime Minister’s rubber stamping Harper’s climate action plan and this dam is NOT what we voted for. No, he wasn’t ready.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I think we may see more than a doubling of this if it continues… we are well on our way to being the next Muskrat Falls, the dam project back east Hydro officials there admitted was a mistake to do. Muskrat is now I believe about $4 billion over the revised budget… and has put the province there deeply into debt requiring a bail out for the project from the federal government.

      It too had many challenges,many say on par with the geotechnical issues of Site C as well as the very real and continued legal challenge just heard by the Supreme court of Canada by Blueberry and Prophet First Nations on the lack of consultation and failure to consider the cumulative impact of Site C in addition to all the other projects on their traditional treaty lands.

      This is far from a done deal. And British Columbians deserve to know what ridiculous position this government has put them in.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. The moment you realize that the slope you spent $30 Million or more to stabilize……..isn’t!! And won’t be! Ever!

    And now you are busy trying to fix/hide a problem that everyone knew exists. Throwing money at this won’t make it go away.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No it won’t. And one has to ask why there still isn’t wider coverage of this? This is a growing boondoggle and one has to ask who is steering the boat here? These conditions are well documented- its impossible and quite ridiculous for Hydro to say they encountered unexpected conditions. The reports are there for the public to read. The question is, why are they being ignored? And how much longer does Hydro think they can keep this all hidden?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. No.
        William and Kate’s visit is far far more inportant.
        How much time was devoted to Monday evenings’ “News”? 30 minutes?
        Not to mention the 3 minutes of 6pm prime time tv that Chris Gailus spent fawning over Christy Clark and her son Hamish.
        It actually became amusing watching vapid mom propmpting equally vapid son with the answers to Gailus’s vapid questions.
        It gives “air (head?) time” an entirely new meaning when the intellectually deficient are “interviewing” the morally defunct for what is basically a free, blatant, 6pm election grandstanding campaign stunt.
        I can only assume with Global’s falling ratings, Chris Gailus is hoping to be “annointed” as Christy’s new “press officer” if she becomes re-elected. Always good to keep one’s employment options open eh Chris?
        Christy Clark couldnt give 2 eyelashes about the cost of the Site C Dam.
        She’s not personally on the hook for this fiscal and envorinmental disaster…..and until leading politicians who ignore scientific, and the outraged publics advice ARE personally , financially and criminally responsible…….nothing will change.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you Laila for exposing what Arthur and other have been trying to show about the foolhardy idea of building on sand/mud .. Instability combined with arrogance and wilful blindness on the part of Christy and toadies. Just like Harper!


  4. When this dam fails, and there is major damage and possible loss of life, is it feasible for the people (premier) who rubber-stamped it without due diligence, to be held legally accountable for their negligence, or does she just skate away smiling?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Good to see you back Laila! You don’t owe us anything – just drop in once and a while to let us know you’re okay. I was with your favorite contractor (Kiewit) in the late ’60s when we were trying to build the BCR north of Ft. St. John and the ‘shale bedrock’ was as much a problem then. We ended up building the rail bed on one inch plywood in order to get through the stuff.
    As for Hydro claiming that they are “…pressuring contractors to assume some of the financial burden…”, lots of luck with THAT! Have you ever come across an altruistic contractor? Besides Kiewit, I mean.


  6. Makes one wonder if perhaps this isn’t the reason Minister Responsible Bennett headed for the pasture. Who knew and when did they know it?. Other than what was known all along.


  7. Laila, I have heard from a very good source (works at the dam site and will remain anonymous) that the back channels they are creating is trapping fish and they are dying in huge numbers. He wanted to bring it to someones attention and chose me, now I am choosing you!! LOL I can’t give his name though.


    1. Dont need names, tips are enough to get things started. I will call DFO again. Thanks Shelley. Btw, there was a recent job listing for a sediment etc observation officer ( something like that) cant find the ad now but will post if I do. I couldnt help but wonder two things when I saw it. Wasnt this a position that should have already been filled? and two: If it was filled, what happened to the last person doing that job?

      BTW, anyone with tips on whats going on inside with this north slope, get in touch with me. The comparison of the July photos and these new ones is stark. Makes me wonder whats going to happen in spring sloppy thaw?


  8. Who but BC Hydro could come up with the stupid idea that contractors are going to shoulder some of the cost because of hydros engineers mistakes Of course they think we the taxpayers are stupid


    1. I know…. its just spin from Hydro to try an appease anyone reading. No contractor is going to shoulder the risk on this one or the cost. Certainly not Morgan Construction….


  9. How many BC projects have been pay to play sine BC Libs in 2001.BC debt went from 34 to 66 billion (2001-2016)and contractual obligations are over 100 billion taxpayer dollars now.By 2021 with site C and massey( a tunnel to move bottleneck would cost 1/4 of bridge) look for heading towards 100 billion debt by next election


    1. From Integrity BC : Acciona has had a series of issues crop up…

      Sounds like the perfect pick for a dam project the premier is pushing hard on Hydro to get done. I do wonder if any corners are being cut like the contractor on the Sea to Sky did on the retaining walls, where substandard material was used and now needed repairs ?


  10. […] Update September 22nd .. As promised below, here’s a link to Laila Yuile’s latest. It documents progress (of sorts) mitigating rainfall caused failures during the construction of Site C… No word on how the over-runs are adding up, but it’s a big story that needs a light shone ..… […]


  11. And DFO and the province are looking into whats been posted here. Perhaps we will see more warnings and fines as occurred after I posted the sediment photos earlier this spring which resulted in a firm slap on Hydros wrist. Not seeing much mitigation here.


    1. DFO should be monitoring but has no staff in the area.. closest one is in Pr George.. unless of course the sediment observation officer has been hired to watch the Peace fill with sediment as Hydro logs more and more of the slopes down the river to Bear Flat. Disgraceful. Nice that BCH is left in charge of monitoring its own desecration.


      1. Last time locals complained to DFO many times and nothing was done until I personally called DFO in Vancouver and asked them to look at the photos I had posted on sediment flowing in the river with zero sign of mitigation in place.

        And then this… more warnings etc

        You tell me with all this going on why permits were issued.


  12. Acciona had a difficult time on a simple $300 Million hospital project in Fort St John. Huge deficiency list. That project ballooned to about $375 Million but since it is a top secret P3 project many of the details are hidden. One that wasn’t was that a substantial amount of the funding was borrowed at 14.5% interest.
    Since the portion of the dam project that is happening now was handed out without the benefit of open tendering for public scrutiny, we need to find out how generous BC Hydro through the government is being on this project. In light of the geothechnical issues and the fact the alert was reported to the BCUC, it appears the window is open for legitimized runaway cost increases.


  13. Fair question -is it pay to play to be on board of directors in BC for crown corporations ?.
    Determined by donations not degrees?
    BCUC political cannon fodder?


  14. BC Hydro Licence of Occupation
    Only three days left to make public submissions to BC Natural Resources Ministry re BC Hydro License of Occupation Application to log Peace River crown land above the Site C dam site, including an area that has been recommended for provincial park status and contains rare old growth forests.…/y2y-upset-over-plan-to-log-nea……


    1. Thanks for linking this up again Alison, busy day here. A lot of interest in this post from Ottawa and quite a few emails and calls to attend to, and again tomorrow.

      I’ll update everyone as soon as I can. And if there is anyone else reading with info, please let me know. Hearing word that construction is quite a bit behind schedule and held up on coffer dam construction. A lot of excavating going on the top and on various lower levels on the north bank.


      1. Have you considered a FOI request for the engineering reports that guaranteed the safety and stability of the entire basin of the dam? I know that sounds like a stretch but there would have to be such documents in order for the project to proceed.. It would be interesting to see what they said and whether what is happening on the north slope is consistent with their expectations.


  15. Another great article. On a side note there was a PBS special on the other day about killer landslides including a landslide a couple of years ago in Osa Washington that almost wiped the town off the map. The conditions there were suspiciously like the glacial deposits you are documenting on the north slope where the existing soil turns to mud as soon as rain hits it. If the US government agencies have info on this type of issue surely we should have researched the same up here. Thanks for keeping us up to date on the real story of this fiasco.


    1. This is the letter I sent to Min Thomson today..
      Thinking others could endorse and send in too…
      Hello Minister Thomson,

      I am trying to make a comment with regards to the following Application.
      I understand the comment period was open until today. However I do not see any link to be able to make a comment. I am exceedingly unhappy about this application and wish to make the following comments. Could you please ensure that the appropriate official receives them and includes them in the decision making process?

      1. I object to the unnecessary haste and lack of publicity with which this application is being processed.
      2. I object to logging the sides of a major river in an area already known to be prone to sliding and sloughing. Logging in the area will produce massive siltation in the river and interfere with the use of the river by local residents. The massive siltation will destroy fish and other aquatic habitat in the river.
      3. Logging in the area will massively destroy habitat for any and all bird and animal species that live in the zone in question. This is entirely unacceptable.
      4. I object to logging in an area identified as a place of special significance such as the Peace-Boudreau. I have spent time in that area and know it to be a life support system in the Peace River Valley. Logging it would be a desecration.
      5. The following study demonstrates the slope instability in the valley and should not be ignored. I quote: “a report commissioned by the Honorable Jack Weisgerber, Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources in 1991. Prepared by the Geological Survey Branch of British Columbia, this report was made without reference to the proposed flooding of the Lower Peace River Valley; rather it was commissioned to examine aggregate exploitation within the lower Peace River region. It urged caution: “Valley slopes throughout the region are subject to slope failure and colluviation, and the development of these sites should be minimized.” (Quaternary Geology and Landforms of Eastern Peace River Region, British Columbia, by N.R. Catto 1991).
      6. Finally I object to Crown Land being turned over to BC Hydro and out of the public domain, in perpetuity even if the Dam is not completed.

      Please inform me of the outcome of my request. With thanks to my MLA Nicholas Simons.


      1. THank you for this. I just heard many had the same issues and could not submit comment, which I suspect was intentional. If anyone else had the same problem, please let me know


  16. Some contractors may be willing to “work with BC hydro”. If they were over paid to begin with or they are being paid “off the books”. No one works for free if they are a huge corporation.

    As long as no lives are lost I’d love to see the whole mess slide in to Alberta or into the world’s largest sink hole in March. Would settle the election at least


  17. […] However, it was yet another post I published on September 21st, yet again showing new photos extensive cracking, dangerous conditions and another heavy sediment flow in the Peace River, that had federal politicians from both the NDP and the Liberal Party of Canada getting in touch with me… and both DFO and the environmental assessment office running..… […]


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