New documents & expert testimony report offer chilling contradiction to Horgan & Mungall: Why the NDP must halt Site C now & force Hydro to come clean.

It is with no surprise that I see the NDP had some major media releases planned for today, nor is it a coincidence – it’s called trying to squash a bad story that’s come out with bigger news of their own. Already a report has been released on how awesome the economy is doing and the ride-share report is planned for just before noon.

Do not let that distract from a far bigger story that demands both answers and your action. The biggest story by far in BC politics today has been written by Sarah Cox.

In January of this year , West Moberly First Nation filed a civil suit asking for an injunction to halt Site C construction. 

That case is about to come to a head with hearings starting July 23rd in Vancouver-more details at the end of this post, however right now let’s look at 2 stunning reports from Sarah Cox. The headline doesn’t come close to indicating how serious the news inside is.



BC Hydro’s troubled Site C dam project, already behind schedule and vastly over-budget, faces an “extremely high probability” of at least a one-year construction delay, according to a leading expert in large hydro dam projects.

Harvey Elwin, an expert witness in a First Nations application for an injunction to halt work on the Peace River dam, makes the statement and other revelations in a lengthy report filed late Wednesday in B.C. Supreme Court.

The report’s significant findings contradict recent public assurances from BC Hydro and B.C. Energy Minister Michelle Mungall that the $10.7 billion project is on track, implying that costs are likely to soar further.


Elwin describes the high level of confidentiality surrounding the Site C project as “extraordinary” and says he has never encountered such secrecy during his five decades designing, developing and managing large hydroelectric projects, including during his work on China’s Three Gorges dam, the world’s largest hydro facility.


Premier John Horgan recently said at a media briefing that one-quarter of the project is complete.

However, information outlined in Elwin’s report contradicts that statement and raises questions about a comment from Mungall that BC Hydro is doing a “fantastic job” for British Columbians.


Among the major risks identified in Elwin’s report are “unusual” and “detrimental” delays in building the dam’s south bank drainage tunnel.*

Elwin says it should have been a relatively “straightforward, simple” job, especially compared to two large horseshoe-shaped drainage tunnels that have yet to be built three years into what was supposed to be a nine-year construction schedule.

The report also notes that excavation work on the north bank, where landslides and large tension cracks have slowed progress, is “seriously behind schedule and currently falling behind further.


At the top of Elwin’s list of major risk issues for the Site C project are serious setbacks in the placement of concrete for the dam’s south bank “roller compacted concrete buttress,” a massive structure to support the powerhouse and spillways that will require almost two million cubic metres of a special blend of concrete.

Elwin points out that only about one-third of the concrete planned for 2017 was placed, noting efforts to accelerate the work have failed. At the current rate of progress, the concrete will take nine years to place instead of three, he states.

All indications are that at by end of 2017 BC Hydro and the project’s major civil works contractor “had to be aware” that the lack of progress on that work “was a major project risk,” Elwin notes.

Delays in concrete placement have ripple effects on other critical steps, leading Elwin to conclude that there is an “extremely high probability” of delays in meeting project milestones, pushing back by at least one year the diversion of the Peace River, reservoir filling and the project’s in-service date.

BC Hydro has already disclosed that the planned river diversion, which must be done before the dam structure can be built, is one year behind schedule. But the Crown corporation has stated repeatedly, and as recently as last week, that the project will be completed on time.

Elwin calls the current concrete placement timeline “overly optimistic and not realistically achievable,” noting that sustained rates for producing the concrete (the actual number of cubic metres is redacted from the report) are “unusually high.”

“With having to start up from a seasonal shutdown every spring and accomplish these rates of placement with the temperature restrictions and day and night temperatures for the area in combination with the logistics of these placements, the planned baseline is unrealistic,” the report says.

Elwin notes that the team working on the massive Three Gorges Dam worked for two years to get the Chinese contractor to ramp up and meet its planned peak schedule production of concrete, which set world records for concrete volumes and production rates at 400,000 cubic metres a month.

Other major Site C project risks outlined by Elwin include the river diversion tunnel excavation, main civil works work quality and non-conformance reports.

Information about the seventh major risk is redacted from Elwin’s report.

Among other disclosures, Elwin’s report reveals that only 65 hectares of 2,918 hectares in the future reservoir area have been cleared of trees and other vegetation.

The report notes that a BC Hydro Site C dam “progress report,” made public in March, says that clearing in one area called the “lower reservoir/Moberly drainage” is “substantially complete,” even though a BC Hydro affidavit filed for the First Nations court case reveals that 83 per cent of that area has yet to be cleared.


Included in the internal BC Hydro documents Elwin reviewed under the confidentiality agreement are minutes from the project’s little-known Technical Advisory Board.

The Narwhal previously filed a Freedom of Information (FOI) request for all documents related to the Site C project technical advisory committee and received back information so redacted it was impossible to extract any relevant information. Even photo captions in the FOI response were redacted.

Minutes from a February 2018 meeting of the technical advisory board reviewed by Elwin describe BC Hydro’s Site C project schedule as “aspirational” and express many of the same concerns outlined by Elwin but not acknowledged by the B.C. government or BC Hydro in recent statements and the carefully-crafted Site C dam “progress” reports available to the public.

In a heavily redacted section of his report, Elwin notes that the emphasis on work quality in one section of a technical advisory board report is “unusual.”

“In my opinion, it is the sign of a large performance problem with the MCW [Major Civil Works] contractor meeting the requirements of the specifications and quality of work. In my experience, when this situation occurs it is nearly always accompanied by serious delays in the work due to quality issues involving rework or stoppages of the work until work can be done in accordance with contract requirements.”

“If the poor quality of work does not get turned around, it will continue to affect the performance and production of work and raise the likelihood of further delay and that the current Project Milestones will not be met.”


Well. Isn’t that something? Because on July 11th when faced with one of those sham updates that BC Hydro’s own documents appear to contradict, Energy minister Michelle Mungall had this to say:

“…in a telephone interview she said she was encouraged Hydro was disclosing problems publicly and acting to fix them.

Is she confident the project can be kept on budget? “Yes.” Have Hydro and the contractors gotten the message on safety? “I think so. Safety is not something we compromise.”

Clueless. But that’s what happens when you have Chris O’Riley right beside you advising you on what to say.

Chris O’Riley is a yes man.  He has not been able to reign in the project that has been a disaster since day 1 as I documented on this site for years. Landslides after landslides. Breaches of environment acts. Accidents. And the now infamous tension cracks I first reported on that resulted in mockery online.

Hydro has not been honest. The  Hydro documents reviewed by this expert confirm this.

Horgan is not correct when he says and has said it’s 1/4 done. The  Hydro documents reviewed by this expert confirm this too…

John, you’re the energy wonk. You know better. Fire whoever is feeding you this misinformation.

Which leads me to Sarah’s second story:


An international hydro dam construction expert describes the high level of confidentiality surrounding B.C.’s Site C hydro project as “extraordinary” and says he has never encountered such secrecy during his five decades designing, developing and managing large hydroelectric projects, including China’s Three Gorges dam.

“I have never seen in 50 years a major public project or program being put in place for its ratepayers by a public agency providing as little information,” Harvey Elwin, a civil engineer who has held major leadership roles with large multinationals working on hydroelectric projects around the world,


Elwin says in the affidavit that he disagrees with BC Hydro’s position that information on the cost, schedule, status and progress of the Site C project must be kept secret from the public.

He notes that it is valid to withhold “narrow categories of commercially sensitive information” for hydro projects, such as information on contract pricing, compensation for assigned staff and internal records of discussion of claims.

But information on the status of Site C project schedules, actual costs versus planned costs, the progress of work by percent complete, and technical board reports should not be commercially sensitive “and have been routinely reported to the public on many other projects being constructed,” Elwin says.

Withholding “virtually all the cost, schedule, and progress information from the public and the public oversight bodies” such as the independent B.C. Utilities Commission (BCUC) are “far from the norm and contrary to policies I am used to seeing elsewhere for major world class public infrastructure projects,” the affidavit states.

“It is my opinion that it is very unusual and in conflict with the responsibility of project management and public sector officials not to keep their constituents and ratepayers informed specifically on the progress for public sector projects being performed by a public sector agency,” Elwin says in the affidavit.

Hmm. You know why there’s so much secrecy? Because Christy Clark wanted a legacy project (ego, you know) and forced a project on BC Hydro that had no business case. None. The secrecy is to hide failure after failure after failure on this project.

The NDP championed the need for transparency in government for years. The only option here for them now is to come clean and clean house at BC Hydro because this case starts next week and who knows what else is going to come out. And since Weaver seems unwilling to push the NDP hard on anything, I’m not expecting much more than some faux outrage there. ( Hello Andrew, not sure we need a corruption inquiry yet?? Facepalm. )

One thing I do know from being in the courtroom with BC Hydro once before for the Rocky Mountain camp hearing, is that Hydro lawyers will, without a doubt, be trying to have this information hidden forever. They will not want it to be public because it calls into question not only their competence but their motives.

My last big post on Site C before I got sick was in November of last year.

There is still only one right answer for Site C. Stop it.  I

I’m not getting my hopes up…I can’t. I actually thought the NDP would do the right thing.I didn’t expect so many who said they were opposed to this dam to just suddenly say ” Oh well” when Horgan surprised them too. But this is as close as anyone is going to get to stopping this train wreck and I hope West Moberly wins this case.

If you are able to, please go and watch the court case where this testimony and report are heard:

 Monday July 23rd in Vancouver, at BC Supreme Court go for 9:30 am and check the board for the court room

DO NOT BE LATE. The hearing starts at 10 am and seats are limited. It may be livestreamed as well although parts of the proceedings may be sealed from the public. Fill the halls. 

I will update this post here, with any further details.





23 Comments on “New documents & expert testimony report offer chilling contradiction to Horgan & Mungall: Why the NDP must halt Site C now & force Hydro to come clean.

  1. It is so sad to put faith in someone/political party and have your trust smashed. Mr. Horgan has proven to be just another lying politician. Is there any other kind anymore? The future continues to darken.

    • This is a valid reason for him to save face and halt it.
      The NDP have done well in many areas and on several files amd we definitely don’t want to see the likes of the BC liberals back anytime soon-they are why I was calling for a corruption inquiry as far back as 2012, perhaps earlier.

      But none of that should mean people suddenly stop demanding accountability on other files like lng or site c. This is an unmitigated disaster financially in the making. This is still wrong. It always was. And yes I still haven’t learned how to seperate my emotions from my writing and it might mean I lose a bit more hair but this can’t be ignored.

      Anyone who thinks this isn’t going to have an impact on the economy hasn’t been paying attention to anything the ndp said for years.

      Do not allow them to fall victim to being given false or faulty advice.

      This expert reviewed BC Hydros own documents. Its unreal that this was allowed to continue.

  2. Yourself and a few others will be vindicated as more info comes out. The real challenge at the site as indicated are the diversion tunnels which must be built in the weak structure of the north bank. As we heard last week in the quarterly report to the BCUC, work on the rather simple, smaller south bank drainage tunnel was suspended for a month due to chunks of the concrete ceiling falling and endangering workers. River diversion was already the main cost driver and the main source of delay on the project, with BC Hydro admitting at the BCUC Inquiry that they had lost a year and $630 Million. With the price revised after the continuance announcement to add a further $2Billion, it looks more like that was the actual number. There will no doubt be further cost increases, all which will be added to the bills of unsuspecting ratepayers as in NL with the Muskrat Falls project. It would be a good time right now to tender remediation and cut losses before the inevitable rate increases hit job creating industrial users and residential ratepayers.

  3. the words, land slide after landslide reminds me of a small documentary which was on the Knowledge network last night about the impact of the Bennett dam which started flooding the land in 1967. One of the scenes they show is the banks just don’t hold up, they will slide and slide. You’d think B.C. Hydro would have learnt something since 1967, but they haven’t and that includes how the treat the First Nations. In 1967 they didn’t even bother to notify the First Nations people in the area, they had started the flood. What was also very interesting was how the flooding and the “new lake” changed the climate on the water.

    Site C. needs to be closed down. It simply can not go on. Well it can, but it won’t be good for the province, the people who live in the area, the environment, or the financial well being of the province. $10BILLION buys a lot of schools and hospitals in the province, not to mention upgrading mental health facilities, affordable housing, better roads and bridges. l$10Billion on a dam is dam stupid.

    I’m not happy about that “confidentiality” b.s. either. its our province, our tax dollars and in the end our electricity rates. I want open books. This is a democracy. all I can think is why are Horgan and the Greens doing this? I know why Christy Clark and the B.C. Lieberals were building the dam, but the new government, they really had a chance to move us in another direction. People who work on that dam go in for two weeks and come out for a week. It doesn’t create jobs around the province, which a $10B budget for buildings and roads would create.

    uggg, this is ugly and I’m not happy, but I sure dont’ want to go back to the B.C. Lieberal either.

  4. Laila, you make me SO happy. I just hope my happiness isn’t at the expense of your health! You’ve hit the nail on the head, again.
    Horgan’s statement that it is “…1/4 done..” reminds me of the butcher that backed into the bacon slicer and got a little behind in his business. The more money they dump into this fiasco the smaller the amount will be ‘done’. The contractual ‘extras’ for ‘unforeseen conditions’ haven’t even begun to flow or should I say ‘tsunami’. Yet! Just wait until they try to accelerate!
    After 60 years in construction (OMG, am I THAT old?) I’ve never, ever seen the secrecy exhibited here. The ‘largest Public Project in BC’s history’ should warrant all sorts of fanfare, bells and whistles. Instead, nary a peep.
    My hope is that Horgan’s relying on the Treaty 8 injunction to shut it down and then put it to bed forever. But I’m ever the optimist. The guy that says the glass is half full. The Engineer says it’s too big, not half empty.
    You stay healthy and don’t worry about my happiness!

  5. Louise, its not giving the NDP a blank cheque. far from it. However, the reality is if push comes to shove some of us will vote NDP again because the B.C. Lieberals is simply not a way to go or did you forget all the pain and misery that group of degenerates caused the children of this province. Do you not recall all the money laundering, the list goes on. What you do is work to ensure the NDP changes its mind. You speak to your MLAs and your Constituency group, etc.

    • Yes, work to convince the NDP that they have to remember why they are in government, why they decided as individuals and as a party to take on the responsibility, and why they went to the BCUC for evidence a year ago. But part of that effort has got to be that the NDP comes to realize that screwing up possibly the biggest issue facing them in this term of office is not going to help them get re-elected.

      And it isn’t just the question of geotechnical difficulties, or budgets gone to hell, or delays in construction, it is the mindset of the people trying to push this through that as the story says, puts the blame for the delays on First Nations trying to get justice. It is also the ethics of the NDP who campaigned on a better energy plan in terms of jobs, investments, and timing and then who tossed that like there is no tomorrow. The multiple issues involved including food security, safety, species at risk and biodiversity, that have to be considered in a project of the scale of a dam at site C mean that we have to question the ability of the NDP to deal with complex issues.

      And again, it isn’t just a dam, a river valley, a treaty that is threatened by this kind of lack of integrity. It is a multitude of dams that will follow if we don’t stop this now, the Stikine-Iskut, the Skeena, the Liard, the MacGregor, the Homathko, the hundred dams that the planners see for Canadas future. And still worse to come, fish farms, old growth logging in parks, Imperial Metals, LNG. It isn’t the kind of balance where if you do some good things you get to do some stupid things too.

    • I don’t think anyone is telling anyone to put their vote anywhere eaf.

      What is alarming to me and others is the public and private silent acceptance by many well known ndp boosters on certain files they absolutely harassed the Libs for. Silence won’t do a damn thing. Silent acceptance is how the Libs stayed in power for so long …until Clarks arrogance and desperation finally drove hordes of supporters to vote elsewhere just to get rid of her.

      We all know what this dam will do to BC finances. We all know how its in direct opposition to UNDRIP.

      Its disheartening to see good people who would have ripped the Libs for less, choose silent acceptance now. Horgans going to wear this mess in the next election if this case doesn’t stop it. And if he chooses not to call a public inquiry into all we know now over money laundering and corruption…?

    • Of course I do. But when you end a sentence with, “But the BC Liberals are worse,” you’ve essentially wiped out the criticism of the current government and it seems like you’re saying, “I’ll look passed anything and vote for you again anyway.”


    • And for the record, I was the VP of my BCNDP constituency association until Site C dam. I started speaking out and was told, “We accept your resignation.”

      You can’t make change in the two big parties. After much dedication and volunteer hours and money given to the party, I’ve learned that the hard way.

      No more partisanship for me, thanks.

  6. What if we put 10 billion to put solar panels on all buildings and retrofit hydro infrastructure to accept excess power generated by solar panels. The elephant in the room is soon people will be driving e-cars charged from solar panels. Average price of Vancouver home is a million bucks so 20 or 30 grand in solar panels a drop in the bucket. Yes we get rain but newer solar panels generate in the rain. California mandates new buildings to be equipped with solar.
    Secrecy over a hydro dam is criminal. Not state secrets or a war situation but infrastructure taxpayers all pay for. Horgan bribed or threatened. Vote Green next time. If at all buy solar panels and a power wall and stop paying hydro.
    They have stopped buying power from homes with solar panels by the way. A step backward.

    • Great attitude and totally on board. Where there is a will there IS a way. Solar is far more doable in many areas of BC than some would like you to believe. However this happened and we are heading in the wrong direction.

      We have to be more pragmatic.Clark had already chased wind out of BC and now solar is not being encouraged because ..duh…site c.

      The greens however are talking alot but not willing it seems to push the ndp hard on anything until they get PR. Which is a load of nonsense because the good in a minority govt situation should be the ability to temper the direction of the larger party.
      They say power reveals a lot about a leader. It reveals more than perhaps they are aware they convey.

      Please keep pushing for progressive energy moves like this.

  7. If NDP dont conduct a corruption inquiry then ,ergo by complicty,implicity corrupt themselves.
    Is there a dont dis peer politicans policy in BC.?

    • It doesn’t look good, no.

      Criminal behavior was allowed to flourish directly under BC Liberal governance. Sandy Garossino’s piece is clear. You can’t whitewash the blood that was spilled. And to allow it to go unaccounted for is unthinkable.

  8. Part of the secrecy about Site C includes the fog of silence the BC NDP has placed over it since the 2017 election campaign. They buried this incredibly important issue on page 63 of their election platform – unnamed. They didn’t even name the Peace River! Now, their emails trumpeting the great accomplishments of their first year in office talk about all sorts of things – except the Site C dam. Their PowerBC policy has also disappeared into the fog.

  9. And it gets worse.

    The cost of steel and cement is increasing three (3 X’s) faster than the rate of inflation or about 7.5% annually.

    This means any construction delays will be extremely costly.

    Who is running the show?


    My money is on Meggs.

    “Who is in charge of the NDP’s clattering train? The axles creak, and the couplings strain. For the pace is hot, and the points are near, and Sleep hath deadened the Horgan’s ear: And signals flash through the night in vain. It’s Meggs that is in charge of the NDP’s clattering train!”

  10. Laila, that Huffington Post article was a fun read, going back in time, to see the predictions, etc. So Dix lost and Meggs sat on council a few more years doing more damage, in my opinion, to the city of Vancouver. Heyman went on to win and has been in office since and a much better politician than Meggs. Now Heyman is the one in office and Meggs is running the Premier. The NDP might want to have a good look at what happened to the City of Vancouver. We know Robertson isn’t running again. it is doubtful he is doing it because he wants to jump to federal politics. He has spent his political capital and is finished. Horgan doesn’t just have one city to deal with. He has a whole province with varying interests. If he doesn’t watch it, he could become a “victim” of Meggs and he won’t even have gotten to do the wonderful things Barrett did in his one term in office.

    Meggs may be articulate, he may be smart, but he wasn’t elected and he ought not to be “ruling” our province by pulling Horgan’s strings, in my opinion, I’m sure Horgan can hire some one else do to the job. Some of us within the party see Meggs for what he is and I don’t think he’ll do the NDP any good.

    AS to resigning from a position within your party to signify disagreement with the state of affairs hasn’t worked well for many. It only works when everyone does it.

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