The Billion dollar question with only one right answer.

I was working on some research when I first heard the decision on Site C would come by December 31st, 2017…exactly two years from the day I first started blogging about Site C in earnest. Since then a multitude of opinion editorials, articles and statements have been made by both those opposing and those in support. ( It’s here I’ll mention the only formal group campaigning in support seems to be the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association, spearheaded by rep Jordan Bateman. Yes, that’s the same Jordan Bateman,former taxpayers champion who worried about the costs of Site C )

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The BCUC was clear in their final report & for the first time since I have been reporting on Site C, headlines appeared in every paper in BC confirming what we have all been saying all along.

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In following Site C, once again what’s proven to be the issue that flips undecided citizens most is cost & debt load. Cost because while people in metro Van can’t see the reality of how big the impact is of a flooded valley, they can see the impact of rising hydro rates on their bills. Debt load because even the most fiscal conservative gets how rising debt at BC Hydro impacts the provinces bottom line.

Moodys warned the previous BC Liberal government repeatedly that the rising debt at BC Hydro ( guaranteed by the province of BC) was putting the provinces credit rating at risk.  Moodys also warned the previous BC Liberal government repeatedly that the provinces debt load was rising and was putting our AAA rating at risk.

And now we have a perfect storm thanks to the mismanagement of the former government lead by Christy ‘git er done’ Clark, combined with the political considerations of the new NDP government. Do we move ahead with Site C and all the risks inherent to this project and the provinces finances? Or do we step around the sunk cost fallacy, stop throwing good money after bad and find a different way? I still believe stopping Site C is the only option. And here is why.

I’ve written extensively about the ongoing slides and efforts to find a way to address what Hydro claimed were unexpected geotechnical problems ( they weren’t unexpected, unless someone is a total idiot & didn’t read any reports).  The problematic left bank, aka North Slope, is where two tension cracks appeared and is where escalating costs will continue to arise from. Why this matters, is because this is the area of one of the anchor points for the dam.

Vaughn Palmer reported on the geotech problems here, months after I had been reporting  with photos on ongoing slides on that slope for much of 2015/2016. 

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This one aspect alone, the removal of unstable soils sitting on top of unstable shale bedrock, will likely be a key factor in cost escalation on this one portion of the project alone. Here is a page from the 2009 Klohn Crippen Berger report: 

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Herein lies a major issue, explained to me by a project manager familiar with the site and these reports.  The 1982 slope design called for estimated 15.6 cubic meters to achieve stability. To save money, the 1989 design used a steeper angle, shaving off  5.1 million cubic meters of excavation. But a 2005 review stated the 1982 design had to be assumed… or even more to achieve a flatter slope for stability.

Fast forward to where we are now and the sheer volume of material already excavated to flatten and round off the unstable slopes has been immense, yet two tension cracks still appeared after innumerable slides throughout 2016. That likely means they will go for  the even flatter slope design referenced above, to try to achieve stability.

Of course, the flatter that anchor point slope gets to try to achieve stability ( truly an unknown factor) ,the more costs go into dam construction in material costs, to account for being anchored to a flatter slope. The dam design is larger. Not only that, the costs relating to hauling massive amounts of material out need to be factored depending on where the material is being dumped. The further away the dump site is, the longer the turnaround time on haul trucks, requiring more trucks to keep to any semblance of a schedule. How much has been removed? How much more would they try?

Here is a look at before and after of that bank since the project started:

Ca-ching $$$  You get the point and this is still, only one aspect of the entire project that’s  eaten up nearly half the contingency already and has seen one member of the construction design team overseeing the project, go bankrupt.

( Of note, Arthur Hadland, source of much wisdom and relevant materials to the area and project,spoke with a retired engineer who worked on the project back in the 70’s, and this was his comment. There is substantial documentation of surveys done on that bank over the years showing how extensive the movement on the slopes has always been

“When I worked on this project I supervised a drill that was putting in test holes along the (old) north abutment.  We ran into a sub-vertical open tension crack and lost all drilling water.  It could not be sealed off and we abandoned the hole.  Later I learned the entire bank had collapsed.

There is little that can be done to remediate slopes that have tension cracks and incipient shears on this scale.  What happens is that groundwater moves down the cracks and along more permeable bedding planes.  It has the effect of softening and weakening these layers, which have abundant swelling clay minerals, as you know.  As a result, you end up with a big block of shale sitting on a very slippery surface with no cohesion in the backslope due to the tension cracks.” )

There is another way. And there is a way we address the long term interests of hydro customers, taxpayers, climate and still keep people working in good paying long term jobs, not short term work like Site C.  It’s called Burrard Thermal and even environmentalists have questioned the former governments decision to shut it down,when it provided security for Metro Vancouver supply. 

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The former government played politics with everything, and hypocritical policies that make no sense fiscally or environmentally are part of what needs badly to be corrected in BC,including Site C :

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Say what? It’s bad for us to keep jobs in the north going by using our own natural gas to keep a reliable electricity source in Metro Van, but it’s ok to let industry run wild with it to liquify natural gas in order to export it for foreign markets? Ummm ok.

It’s time to stop Site C, forever.

I’ve put tremendous thought into this, and talked to a lot of people around BC. There is only one way to move forward right now. Bring Burrard Thermal back online if needed, to give security to our grid. We saw last summer how forest fires threatened the grid. It’s a fact we need to deal with. Climate extremes are changing everything. We shouldn’t be flooding this valley.

In the review of Hydro, the NDP needs to look at integrating smaller scale  wind and solar projects into Hydros portfolio, with the knowledge Burrard Thermal is there for back up. It requires no additional infrastructure, with no additional GHG footprint. Tighten up regulations for gas producers to address all environmental considerations.

Remediation of the valley will keep on site workers busy for additional time. Hydro employees will be reassigned to other projects. Bringing Burrard Thermal online ensures local jobs in the gas industry will continue to bring actual business into local communities.

Government should also consider offering incentives to expand agriculture in the area, including offering land accumulated by Hydro at discounted rates to young and interested farmers. Hemp production has been bandied about online with great interest due to long growing days in the north.

This solution is not only workable, it’s the only solution that addresses security and consistency of the power grid, long term job creation and the greater good of taxpayers and hydro customers.

Burrard Thermal provides back up and allows for a clean transition to innovative renewables in BC, as well as providing support if.. and that’s a huge if.. the demand actually materializes. This transition isn’t going to happen overnight and Burrard Thermal will bridge the gap, only needed for peaks or emergencies. I’m shocked Jordan Bateman recently discounted Burrard Thermal in a video for the ICBA, particularly after calling everyone job killers. Why Site C when this is right there? Amend the Clean Energy Act so it actually makes sense.

It’s a fact that Hydro rates will increase no matter what the new government decides.  They have to because of how bad of financial shape BC Hydro is in – that’s what the Liberal MLA’s whining about rate increases haven’t been telling you. But the potential of $10 billion plus of debt from Site C, on top of the crippling debt BC Hydro already has, will absolutely increase rates far more than what stopping the project ever will. What amazes me still are the self proclaimed fiscal conservatives who rail on hysterically about how the NDP will drive us into debt…all the while staying silent on a project that could push BC Hydro debt right off the fiscal cliff. Daycare plan? Bad. How are you going to pay for that? Site C? Good. Let’s not talk about 94 years of debt….

It’s a risk no fiscally competant government should take. The BC Liberals and Christy Clark brought us to this point. But everything that happens from this point on, is entirely on the NDP. Will they put the greater good of BC first and stop this dam? Or take the Dwight Ball route,talk about how bad it is then proceed to build and blame the prior government? ( Hint, that didn’t work out so well for Dwight…)

Let the dam die and leave the people of the Peace river valley alone at last. They’ve given enough to BC. It’s our turn now to make sure this is done right. For all of us.

 

 

 

 

 

36 thoughts on “The Billion dollar question with only one right answer.

  1. Rick Koechl

    Hi Laila and thank you for this summary.
    I have always appreciated your insights on this one.
    One interesting anecdotal story about Jordan Bateman…. you are quite correct in assessing his
    hypocrisy. I actually SPOKE at length with him about 4-5 years ago, then emailed him several times about the cost issue and how this related to his theme of “cutting costs” for the taxpayer. It shocked me when I realized that he was NOT interested in pursuing the Site C story even back then. It made me wonder ‘who’s side is he really on”? I now know that is was the BC Liberal side all along and that his “outrage” was always for the media eye. SAD# (he might work for Trump some day…….)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Laila Yuile

      Interestingly enough, the ICBA has a video featuring Jordan where he basically poo-poos Burrard Thermal and says the environmentalists will never stand for that….

      Yet Stewart Muir was just recently advocating against Vancouvers natural gas ban…

      It’s disappointing and challenging for many who looked to him in his role challenging silly spending by the province and cities, now see him charge full steam ahead and to hell with how much debt it adds to the province, since we guarantee all of BC Hydros debt. It’s no different than ICBC and how its been mismanaged.

      Like

  2. Evil Eye

    “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”

    Sadly, Site C is a mega project from the past and it is time we generate power differently, solar, thermal and wind.

    As population increases the demand for power drops, as we have become extremely efficient with power consumption.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Laila Yuile

      I hear you. It’s something no one wants to talk about. The efficiency and advances in innovative technology is something that gets better every day. I recently read an in depth article on a group that was trying to solve the battery issue and had successfully created a battery using the waste from steel making, thereby mitigating the need for mining precious materials needed for battery production.

      I believe there is a way forward and at this point , BC can learn from what has worked and not worked in other countries and jurisdictions, to avoid making their mistakes. Thats one advantage to being so late at the table.

      I personally don’t know if Horgan and crew have the political will to stop this. They do seem to be trying to woo votes that WILL NEVER vote for them from the right. It’s idiotic. And self defeating because if they approve this, many who voted NDP as a last chance to stop this dam, will never,ever vote NDP again. I’m hearing that a lot. So they will only get one term because they still don’t seem to get the small margin they won by. Toss in more internal discord and its a perfect storm all over again.

      Nice to see you again!

      Like

      1. Hawgwash

        “I personally don’t know if Horgan and crew have the political will to stop this.”

        I am growing increasingly concerned about the political will on many fronts. I was very critical of Mr. Horgan in opposition and now I am seeing the same lack of strength and leadership. I’m just not all that impressed with any of the governing side at this point.

        I was also very optimistic that the Greens would hold NDP feet to the fire as well and I’m not seeing that either.

        I have vowed to disengage completely if Site C goes ahead.

        Like

  3. Thanks Laila. I agree with everything you state herein and particularly with the fact that anyone who was paying attention knew about the material instability years ago. The same applies the Mount Polley and now Red Chris on the Stikine.

    My only disagreement is on Burrard Thermal. First there is no need and secondly if we actually needed more energy then using Mica and the improvements on the other existing power stations would suffice.

    Thanks for still sticking to it where many have quit, including me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Laila Yuile

      Hi Merv!! So nice to see you here 🙂

      We aren’t in disagreement. Currently there is no need and in BC they will not electrify everything nearly as quickly as some are claiming. It won’t happen. One we have a cold and here on the coast, stormy climate and electric heat alone is a budget killer for those who can least afford it. Affordability is not just a housing issue, it is a trickle down issue that impacts budgets of families, students, single and seniors tremendously, so even EV’s are not going to roll into the general population as fast as they think. And even if the need does arrive down the road… and that is still disputable among experts…we have Burrard thermal or Mica to provide consistency to a renewable portfolio.

      It’s been frustrating at times, even for a persistent person like myself. But this is wrong. The people of the Peace have given enough. Period.

      Like

    1. Laila Yuile

      Glad to see you John ❤ It's been a long time since I blogged consistently.

      Harvey is entitled to his opinion and many agree. My view is you can't open new doors using old keys. This is a new time, and in many ways a new world thats changing faster than a lot of people can keep up with…or want to keep up with.

      I was surprised he would fall into the sunk cost trap too.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Len

    I think everyone should take a good look at the main reason for site c and that is they need millions of gallons of water for fracking so if they can suck the rubes into paying for it by telling us we need the power better than the gas companies having to pay for it .They got caught building unapproved dams all over hell up there and i havn’t heard abut any fines have you?Alberta needs that fracked gas to thin bitumin down enought to get it to flow through a pipeline…let them pay for it..eh

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Laila Yuile

      True, there is water being drawn from WAC I believe for that purpose, so they may very well do the same with Site C if built. Fracking and dams don’t really go so well together particularly with such unstable soil that seems to transmit vibration very well.

      BTW, it also came out in the legislature that Hydro had issued a RFP for the transmission line. And there were interested bidders. They extended the date for the proposals to come in for one bidder who wanted to gather more info.

      Mungall had a hard time explaining that.

      Like

  5. Mosko

    Thank you, Laila, for a well-thought-out, reasonaed analysis of the need to shut down the folly that is Site C.

    Of the many, many terrible decisions made by the BC Liberal Party, and Christy Clark, Site C will go down in history as one of the worst, most destructive and politically-motivated.

    Rarely is such irresponsibility exposed in such a blatant manner.

    Your diligence on this issue is much appreciated.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Laila Yuile

      Thank you Mosko.

      It’s all Clark and crews doing. But if it continues the NDP cannot just point fingers and blame the Liberals. They will be fully culpable from that point on if they continue it, just like Dwight Ball. And I firmly believe this dam does have the potential to head down the same road based on what we have seen so far.

      Please follow here, and call, email and let your mla’s know how you feel. https://keepingthepeace.wordpress.com/

      Like

  6. r

    Zero growth,now negative as of last quarter, for 11 years and you want to blow 12 billion dollars ,for Site C,and sell surplus power at a potential loss after?
    Why is it you never see an annual demand graph from BCHydro Hmmm…?You may not sell to Alberta -they installed a gas turbine ,like the politically neutered burrard thermal.?
    Bring on the debt downgrade.?The only thing growing is the debt?

    2007-2017

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Len

    Hey Laila,I’ve been thinking about this a lot,,my guess is they are going to go ahead with this and hope it keeps them in power for 16 yrs just like the fast cats did for the lieberals,,,I certianly hope not but just a thought

    Like

  8. G? Barry Stewart

    Blair King, over at A Chemist in Langley wonders: “Wouldn’t it be nice if the people supporting the project put in the sweat equity that the opponents of the dam have been contributing?”

    Reluctant admiration from a Site C proponent… but he makes a good point: the “No Site C” crowd has done most of the heavy lifting on this case. Other than King himself, most of the others in the pro camp have been happy to simply repeat Hydro’s claims.

    I checked out the Fraser Institute for how much it had written in support of Site C. Basically ONE page. Their lack of attention on such an important issue is curious.

    Like

    1. Laila Yuile

      Because no one with a lick of financial sense would continue this knowing what we know about Hydro and their finances. Norm Farrell has reams of excellent information on that alone. New post coming shortly

      Like

  9. Although I know the NDP haven’t the spinal fortitude or skill they could do to the Liberals what Campbell did to the NDP regarding the fast ferries. The fast cats were sold for less than scrap prices and a litany of lies were levelled out and repeated forever tarnishing the NDP brand.

    They now have that same opportunity, yet a better one as they don’t even have to lie!

    However the corruption is so systemic I fear there is no individuals left in Victoria with any vision for anything except their own personal gain.

    Our ex MLA Austin can do nothing but post pics of his world travels. He and his wife did well filling their accounts.

    Sad days. Quite despondent.

    Like

  10. In the private sector they understand the ‘sunk costs fallacy’ quite well based on economics not politics. Suncor and Petronas both backed away from projects when cost / benefit changed. Revelstoke Dam has a spot for a sixth turbine that could be installed right now with half the capacity of Site C with no need for new transmission lines. Floating solar arrays on top of all reservoirs would run more efficiently due to cooling and reduce evaporation.
    “Suncor, for example, in January of 2009 walked away from its massive $11 billion Voyageur upgrader in Fort McMurray incurring a loss of $5 billion in sunk costs because Canada’s largest oil sands producer figured it would never generate a return.”

    Like

    1. Laila Yuile

      Sounds like Kootenay Bill ….lol. So Trumpy!!

      Wow. Fake news on the wac dam sinkhole eh? Clearly not someone who read all the Wac dam documents extensively like I did when the bcuc was reviewing the newest repairs…..

      Like

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