Update on Site C: Milburn report unable to address safety issues, outside experts called in.

If I were to write a book about how subsequent governments have handled BC Hydro and Site C in particular, I would make it a play on the 50 shades novels and call it ” 50 Shades of Bullshit “. Because that is what the latest revelations into BC Hydro contracts and Site C bring to mind. The bullshit at BC Hydro and site C, just keeps getting deeper and more icky. Before I get into the Milburn report shocker, lets take a look at Sarah Cox’s excellent report in The Narwhal.

Some things never change: SNC Lavalin continues its strong presence in BC infrastructure….

Sarah Cox has outdone herself again and this is a must read:

BC Hydro granted $171 million in no-bid Site C dam contracts as project troubles were kept secret from public

Documents obtained by The Narwhal show BC Hydro’s former chief engineer and SNC Lavalin are among the recipients of lucrative and previously undisclosed direct-award contracts, fuelling calls for a public inquiry into the behind-schedule and over-budget hydro project

BC Hydro handed out more than $171 million in no-bid Site C dam contracts over an eight-month period ending in July 2020, including to the beleaguered engineering firm SNC Lavalin, The Narwhal has learned.  

SNC Lavalin, which in 2013 was banned from World Bank contracts for 10 years due to fraud and corruption overseas, received almost $27 million in three new direct-award Site C dam contracts, according to information The Narwhal received from BC Hydro through a freedom of information (FOI) request. 

That’s in addition to $131 million in Site C dam no-bid contracts BC Hydro had already granted SNC Lavalin, which is responsible for designing core components of the over-budget dam on B.C.’s Peace River, the largest publicly funded project in the province’s history.

The FOI response also shows that TE Little Consulting, a firm headed by Tim Little, BC Hydro’s former chief engineer, received $309,000 in December 2019 for Little’s services as the Site C dam “independent engineer.” According to an earlier FOI response, Little, who reports to the B.C. government on all aspects of the dam’s construction, also received a no-bid Site C contract as an “independent engineer” worth $360,000 in December 2018.

Direct award contracts are not new to BC Hydro, and they also use a questionable method of contracting called Early Contractor Involvement, where, in the early stages of many of the RFP, preferred contractors help write the specs…. The idiocy of direct award contracts should be obvious and Cox’s investigation covers that all, but it really concerns me that it continues because a review of BC Hydro done way back in 2011, revealed issues like over-engineering and excessive costs with respect to all this. I wrote about it in 2016, when BC Hydro refused to release the amounts of bids in early site C construction. Its also interesting to see this direct award to SNC Lavalin, in light of the lobbying they did with the new NDP government MLA’S and Meggs in 2018, just as their corruption trial was getting underway back east. I covered that in this piece in 2019, perplexed at how even when governments changed, the way business is done in ministries, did not.

Just how helpful was the Milburn report after all, Bruce?

Horgan finally appeared for a media availability yesterday, mostly to bluff about seeking legal advice about halting interprovincial travel, something Dr. Henry said isn’t going to happen a few hours later in her post Covid report scrum. But thanks to Vaughn Palmer, we did hear some interesting news on the Milburn report, and this is where we get to the 50 shades of bullshit portion of this blog post.

When asked about the report, Horgan surprised everyone by saying that Milburn didn’t have the expertise to assess the safety issues, and two outside experts had been hired to assess the proposed fix by BC Hydro and if it could be completed safely https://vancouversun.com/opinion/vaughn-palmer-dam-experts-hired-to-determine-if-site-c-can-be-completed-safely

Where to start with all this?

Lets start with:

  • Premier Horgan assured British Columbians Milburn was highly qualified and experienced for the job when the review was announced, something that was questioned by many at the time.

  • The two experts who have been retained are two of the worlds renowned experts and my engineering source is impressed. Where concern remains in his mind, is that they are being retained and will work with, the Site C project assurance board appointed by the BC NDP government… a board whose work at oversight failed, is full of people with a record of supporting the project, still remains highly secretive,( https://thenarwhal.ca/court-documents-offer-revealing-glimpse-of-secretive-site-c-dam-oversight-board/,) and has come under fire for not revealing the extent of the current state of geotech issues for over a year. https://thenarwhal.ca/site-c-dam-geotechnical-problems-bc-government-foi-docs/ On that board was Lori Wanamaker, “who in 2017 challenged the commission’s final findings about the Site C project in a six-page letter to the commission that seemed to suggest the new NDP government was searching for a rationale to continue the project.” She too is a holdover from the Clark government who Horgan has now made his Deputy Minister. What will the parameters be of their work? How in depth will BC Hydro let them get? Will they have full access or will the scope be limited? No one knows, because everything Hydro does has remained secretive even with a new government who used to complain about the lack of transparency. I have respect and faith in the expertise of these new engineers, but I don’t have trust or faith in the board or Hydro to do anythng but protect their interests and asses.

  • This outside expert review, comes 4 years after it should have been done, alongside the BCUC review when the NDP first came to power. Why they did not insist on a full safety review of the design and location knowing full well how badly things had gone up until that point with geotechnical issues, is a matter for inquiry one day. That it wasn’t done then is one of Horgan’s single biggest mistakes to date as premier. These geotechnical issues are so well known and documented, even by a government commissioned report done decades ago that warned against further development in this area of the valley, due to historical instability. I’ve posted this report in posts going back to 2015, multiple times, which were widely read and shared by NDP MLA’s and staff over the years. The Site C residents have been sending it to politicians for far longer. https://lailayuile.files.wordpress.com/2017/11/weisgarber-report.pdf

One can hope that NDP mla’s and inside supporters with the premiers ear, push hard to do the right thing now. Consider how climate change extremes of weather patterns are impacting BC reservoirs in recent years, causing drastic fluctuations never seen before.

Drought has already caused severe low water levels with southern BC Hydro reservoirs in years past, even the mighty Williston, yet went to the opposite extreme last summer when extreme rainfall and snowmelt combined left the reservoir at almost full pool even after several spills were conducted over July and August https://www.alaskahighwaynews.ca/regional-news/dam-spills-continue-1.24178934 We went from not generating enough electricity and having to buy it, to dumping it. And these extremes involving lack of water or too much, will absolutely continue as climate change continues. I can’t imagine a full pool reservoir behind the site C dam, not in that part of the valley, not with those dangerous gravel seams and shales the dam would be anchored to. Not with the Taylor gas plant and the community of Old Fort downstream. And if they have to spill from Williston they will have to spill from site c too. If there is drought that stops generation at WAC Bennett dam, site c won’t generate either.

It is also prudent to mention BC’s credit rating and how rising debt at BC Hydro directly impacts it. Right now our credit rating is triple AAA and stable, which the NDP government is quick to applaud and rightly so.

What they never mention in their press releases is what the ratings company warn them about.

In the May 2020 rating, the large contingent liability of BC Hydro debt was listed as a challenge for BC. The province guarantees’s all of BC Hydro’s debt, so British Columbians are ultimately on the hook no matter what happens at hydro. One of the factors listed that could lead to a downgrade of credit rating for the province, was a weakening in BC Hydro’s financial metrics beyond Moodys current assumptions. It included an entire section on BC Hydro which is rarely reported on.

Moodys announced a review of BC’s rating last December, but its locked and I’m not going to pay to see it. ( if anyone has access already and can send it on, that would be appreciated. I’m curious to see if it mentions issues at Site C. https://www.moodys.com/credit-ratings/British-Columbia-Province-of-credit-rating-622300

But to use a politicians term, it’s abundantly clear that what happens at BC Hydro with this dam, impacts all of us whether they stop it or not. And that is something they do not mention to British Columbians. Its directly connected to the provinces credit rating and finances…and to how much we pay for Hydro. Moodys forecast looks at rate increases to cover growing debt. Can you afford that?

Time to go and ready the garden for the cold weather forecast next week, so I don’t lose my winter greens. But before I go I want to leave you with two things.

First, is this interview with Horgan from 2015, in which he debates at times with the host of Daybreak North about why we didn’t need site C even with increased consumption. Not much changed in that respect except his agenda to pursue Christy Clarks LNG future.

The second thing I want you to see, is this view shared by Roger Bryenton, P.Eng and energy systems consultant, showing what happens to the shales Site C is being built on, and into, when exposed to air ( when exposed to water they likewise degrade, causing slide as they revert back into a slipclay ) This is a public video so you can still view it even if you do not use Facebook.


Be well, be safe, get outside and get some fresh air and please consider supporting The Narwhal, to support high quality investigative journalism on key issues impacting Canadians. They have done exceptional work on Site C and many other issues and get in depth where most msm do not have the time or budget, and I always find such value in their work. https://thenarwhal.ca/about-us/

Also, read my last site c post here, where I remind readers of the risk to downstream residents should a dam failur4 occur. https://lailayuile.com/2021/01/04/so-much-at-risk-if-site-c-continues-yet-i-still-dont-think-john-horgan-has-the-courage-to-stop-it/

** as usual I will post updates and links in the comments as well as I see them, so check the comments if you are here reading.



32 thoughts on “Update on Site C: Milburn report unable to address safety issues, outside experts called in.

  1. Google: ‘Peace River Suspension Bridge collapse at Taylor, Oct. 16, 1957, shale slump slide’ and then have the various Engineering firms, who worked for the BC Government, explain….. what’s happening at Site C


    1. Sigh…..you know it, I know it…we all know it…this area is not meant for a dam. I wrote about that disaster in my most recent post before this one https://lailayuile.com/2021/01/04/so-much-at-risk-if-site-c-continues-yet-i-still-dont-think-john-horgan-has-the-courage-to-stop-it/

      I don’t know why they thought this would be different. They took on the debt for the Port Mann Bridge in one swoop when they promised to remove tolls…and did…but chose not to stop site c. Their accounting advice given as to why it would be bad was shown to be incorrect.

      And here we are. Why the BCUC wasn’t told to examine safety back in 2017, I dont know. Well I do actually it was because Horgan wanted site c to power LNG too. Ugh


  2. I’ve never understood why the BC Liberals had an expert on electricity sitting on their back benches.

    Ralph G. M. Sultan’s first Volume on Oligopoly was reviewed by M. A. Adelman who wrote:

    This first of two volumes is in an old and good tradition: mining or quarrying a voluminous court record to write narrative-analytic economic history. After a brief industry background, there is a summary account of the notorious electrical apparatus conspiracies on three important types of heavy equipment. The author then summarizes “NINE BILLION DOLLARS of treble damage suits” and makes a detailed study of one of the biggest, brought by American Electric Electric Power against Westinghouse and General Electric. The writer is discontented with the outcome, and takes over the job of dispassionately examining the evidence to suggest what really happened.

    Was Site C the route go even though a new turbine Mica #6 could be added to the existing dam for far less money?


    1. Clark wanted a legacy project…*her* legacy project. If you recall, at a wake for the senior Bennett when he passed, she promised to get it done, making a memorial for him…about her.Just a tad weird but revealing of her ego.

      Revelstoke 6 is where we could have added capacity if needed. The issue with site c is that its design specs have had to be altered so significantly due to the instability of the north slope I have documented here for years on the site c page accessed at the menu on the top of the site. They ended up having to remove far more of that slope than planned on, requiring the design alterations. Normally dams are located where they can attach to two steep slopes. The north bank has been significantly flattened.

      The south bank also proved to be unstable which we also documented here in a photo in 2019, showing slumping above the service bay.

      Whats worrisome in addition to the silt shale its being built on, is that there is a gravel seam that acts like a wick, and draws water along it. We’ve show the seepage coming out of the bank, it stains rusty colours from the high iron content.

      Engineers are not infallible and this material they are trying to build on will never be stable.


      1. It’s not about having the guts to stand up and repair the compass and redirect to serving the people and getting back to the better place for our damaged system. It’s about protecting their own pathetic little butts and special interests. Of course not all. I would say the majority though. And that’s what counts for a bad situation. Kind of like what we see in the States, but on a different scale of course. Some in the media too. But we know that shameful situation..


  3. I give up! I’ve not heard one credible argument in favor of this silly venture. I’ve heard, and supported, reasons for not proceeding with this dam since 1986, but it forges ahead in spite of all logic! And the logic has only increased in recent years with the advent of economical advances in renewables and battery storage.
    So, it’s come to this: Do I spend my waning years under the jurisdiction of the these non-competents, or do I move on to some more sensible regime?
    Where, you might ask? Not to the Disunited States to the south, obviously!
    Maybe to the east coast? They seem more rational, in spite of their obsession with their damn project, but at least it’s done with. Isn’t it?
    Or to a vineyard in the south of Frawnce? But I think vineyards are overrated.
    Perhaps to Vancouver Island, if you ever think of separating (and not taking Horgan with you!)
    I do appreciate the natural beauty here, I can tolerate the winters ( especially this one!) and by and large, most of the population is friendly, but……


  4. This old prop forward ain’t giving up! I can’t, we can’t, just can’t.

    SNC Lavalin runs the province and do not make the mistake to pretend it doesn’t. SNC Lavalin’s interest in running the province is simple money; money from massive gold-plated mega projects.

    As SNC Lavalin owns the Engineering patents (inherited from Lavalin who owned the proprietary transit system before going bankrupt) for the now called Movia Automatic Light Metro, which is used on the Expo and millennium line, which means it sells it expertise, via license. In other word makes money without doing anything.

    SNC Lavalin is the lead concessionaire with the Canada Line P-3 consortium and receives well over $100 million annually to operate the line. Remember that SNC Lavalin, bid against SNC Lavalin \to win the Canada line p-3 concession.

    Former SNC Lavalin Chair, Gwyn Morgan was former Premier Christie Clark’s chef advisor.

    SNC Lavalin engineers have established themselves at UBC, SFU an most Metro Vancouver governments.

    A former SNC Lavalin Engineer did due diligence for the Broadway subway which, wink, wink, will use the proprietary MALM system.

    This malignant and corrupt company survives on government money and this government money trickles down to union jobs, the very same union jobs that provides voters to the NDP.

    Horgan has become a parody of former premier photo-op and seems more and more afraid to answer hard questions. One wonders if he is merely a hologram manipulated by Premier wannabe Geoff Meggs.

    Dix seems to be the only cabinet minister working, because it seems the rest are all in lock-down themselves, doing precious little.

    Site C is built on a foundation of shale, which is akin to quicksand in the right conditions, Horgan remains blind. Union jobs in BC supersedes public safety and taxpayer dollars. I am very afraid that Horgan’s NDP will go the way of of Clark’s NDP in 2001 and leave us to the mercy of Trumpian revisionists who are nothing more than evangelical con-artists, flim flam types and followers of Quanon.

    Horgan and his retinue is not listening, they have shut the door on informed opinion, shut their eyes to the obvious and just shovel money off the back of a truck. it is like the 1990’s/FastFerry fiasco all over again, only this time on steroids.

    The NDP have remembered nothing and have learned nothing.


  5. I would wager this has been already posted on your site, but let us refresh our memories how stable shale is.

    This is a Movietone item on YouTube about the collapse of the Peace River suspension bridge. I can’t wait for the sequel, the Site C dam collapse.


    1. Ha! Yes it is here somewhere in the vast number of site c posts, but I appreciate you posting it for readers so they can get a full appreciation of how quickly this material goes, when its triggered.

      I also covered the risk to downstream residents in Old Fort and the Taylor gas plant in my prior site c post here. https://lailayuile.com/2021/01/04/so-much-at-risk-if-site-c-continues-yet-i-still-dont-think-john-horgan-has-the-courage-to-stop-it/

      Today I will update the page accessed on the menu at the top to ensure all recent site c posts are there too.


    1. Oops forgot to add this last week.

      Remember that conveyer belt they built to move material for the dam from the pit to the dam site? The one that Peace River people had pics of under water?

      Yeah they want to truck material now and the numbers are astronomical. Look at this. They need an amendment to the enviro certificate for this and residents who live along the route are not impressed. Could you even imagine?


      This entire project has been a series of idiocies.


    1. Good grief, I don’t think so..lol. I’m such a newbie at fighting this for 6 years. The people of the Peace have been fighting this for decades. Just leave this river alone. Its given enough to the province already which is why it was designated a heritage river by the province years ago.


      1. Sure they have, but not as vociferously as you!
        They may have been passively resisting what was acknowledged as dead horse, until Campbell decided it wasn’t! It wasn’t until Her Whoreship Chrispy Clark
        dug her spurs in that it became a real issue, and you were at the gate to oppose every minute of the ride!
        You will prevail, even if it takes some help from Ma Nature!


  6. Horgan will probably waste taxpayer’s money until he gets a report that suits him to justify Site C instead making the decision himself. This continues on and on while the dam gets built right from the beginning and to the disastrous end. He is an indecisive person and leader by nature that always needs reports and his hand held. He needs a legal decision to decide weather he could shut down non essential inter provincial travel during the Covid crisis between Alta and BC when he can use emergency power. A pathetic weak Premier. Non existent leadership strength. Hordes of seniors and love ones dying in LTC because of unbelievable Health officials gross negligence and incompetence and he just lets it happens before his blind eyes. SITE C continues despite everything wrong he knows I repeat. He knows. And he sees in front of him since becoming Premier but is one too turn a blind eye and cheek taboot. What a disgrace.


  7. KL, He’s a POLITICIAN, for goodness sake! He wasn’t elected because he knows anything; he has staff that he hires because THEY are supposed to know something. He was elected because he has good spin doctors and because he has/had a disastrous opposition. As Rafe Mair once said (I think it was Rafe), a fence post in a wig could have won the last election, or when you’re a three and everyone else is a 1 or 2 you can’t help but win!
    He is meant to take the advise of his advisors, not of his corporate sponsors! He is not meant to, or capable of making the decision himself.
    I would argue that he’s a very successful leader, judging by his last election results. However, that doesn’t automatically mean that he’s a GOOD leader. Only time will tell.
    And edit your response before posting! The weather outside may be frigid, but whether that has any bearing on his disposition is moot!


    1. Yeah sure he’s a politician. So I’m supposed too give him some kind of… I’m a politician pass. Sorry. No. Doing an election in this crisis is just shameful also.. As far as editing. I’m not perfect and don’t need your condescending back talk and school masters ruler ! Sorry, but you’re not better than me. Politicians like these reckess people don’t get held to account with pleasantries and pillow talk.


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