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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…🤣

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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

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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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” The road to power is paved with hypocrisy and casualties…” ~ Frank Underwood, House of Cards or Why the Greens are set to lose my vote

It was 2012  and Harper was still in power when a small story that slipped by most media outlets caught my attention. It was around the time I was researching the China file and May had caught a second treaty tabled the same day as the contentious Canada China FIPA,  that held serious implications for the sale of Canadian uranium to China.  

I liked that she had caught something few else had, and something that could have serious implications in times of international conflict. I also liked that over the years, she has stood firm in her ideals and said exactly whats on her mind. In an era where  so many media outlets completely dropped any pretense of unbiased coverage, she has had to fight to be taken seriously, to be heard and as a party leader, to even be allowed to participate in debates.

The federal Greens profile has risen dramatically in recent years, in no small part due to the dedicated and unwavering efforts of May herself to refuse to play into the same old political boys club mantra of do whatever it takes to win. She has held other parties to their environmental failures. And with climate change rightly a big issue, Greens stood a chance to grow in the coming election despite a rift in the party over oil.

And then this happened. https://www.hilltimes.com/2019/07/17/green-party-engaging-in-politics-of-bygone-era-with-new-war-room-hired-gun/208404

Just what the actual F*ck Elizabeth? After years of saying and demonstrating that she and the federal Greens wanted to see politics done differently, they take on a  ” mediocre white guy to advise her political strategy.” ( from the link above) And not just any mediocre white guy, but the mediocre white guy who puts as much toxic into twitter as the hate he so boldly fights. Case in point, he just made Liz May look like fool, in likely trying to diss Trudeau.

And he retweeted this:

Urban Dictionary  has a few definitions for the word dick used in the context Kinsella has, but I rather like this one best: “Someone that is constantly acting like an asshole when unnecessary“.  Which really sums up this tweet. The only dick in these tweets is Kinsella.

I don’t know what happened to the Elizabeth May who has always held her own pitted against seasoned politicians in Ottawa and schooled them as well. The one who has gone through tough elections and performed in such stellar fashion that it inspired many.  That Elizabeth May didn’t need protection from anyone. And I am going to go back to another older post in which I quoted from a Martyn Brown column after her performance in the Macleans debate in the last election: 

May has also proved that her participation stands to change the entire tenor and content of any debate that might take place—and decidedly for the better.

Set aside that, as the only woman in the field, she alone stands to temper her competitors’ macho tussle of ideas and insults with some much-needed gender balance and a unique perspective.

Why the Globe is prepared to discount that imperative is as mystifying as it is glaringly inexcusable.

The larger benefit of May’s involvement is the option for change and democratic representation that her party stands to offer Canadians. It is an option that will be aided by her participation in the debates and that will be unconscionably suppressed if she is excluded.

Whatever the practical challenges may be in translating the Green party’s ideas into action and its often-lofty positions into workable policies, May’s views are important for another less obvious reason.

 

They remind us all that idealism still matters in politics.

 

Her positions are grounded in unyielding beliefs and values of what is right and what is wrong. They are often anything but “political” in the typical partisan sense, insofar as they tend to marginalize her own voter support base, as they also transcend party lines and their associated ideologies.

The trouble with being on the cusp of power—as the NDP now is, in lockstep with the Liberals and Conservatives—is that the power game becomes the only thing that really matters.

Ideals get thrown out the window when push comes to shove in the battle to play it safe with positions that always have the polls as their main object of focus.

The parties and their leaders all tend to speak in code to their prospective supporters by saying enough to win them over and by saying nothing that is not open to constructive interpretation in wooing any target audience.

This is the real value of May’s involvement. She is inclined to say exactly what she means, as if it really matters.

And some of what she says speaks directly to voters like me, who long to hear politicians stake their claim in ideals that are more concerned with right and wrong than with the narrow confines of their orthodox ideologies….”

 

And that’s the heart of what was drawing my vote to the Greens for the coming election, combined with a deep concern over climate change. I do have an issue with continuing oil and have expressed it loudly to the dismay of Greens I know on island.  The Greens plan is, for the most part, a good one that could use a few tweaks, but its a start. I am beyond disgusted with Trudeau, who I voted for in the last election, to get rid of Harper. I will never vote for the Conservatives, period. And Singh has yet to show the kind of leadership I think we need in Canada.

The Kinsella thing though? Nothing about him jives with doing politics differently, as his own tweet confirms. He thinks people who want to do politics differently are dicks.Not just any dicks either, but the biggest ones. And the reaction from many Greens to those vehemently opposed to his hire has been disappointingly similar to the partisan politics played by other parties as well. ” Don’t post your beefs online, let the party know.”  ” Oh if Kinsella makes you leave I wonder how dedicated those Green votes really were?”
Full stop and time for self reflection. You can’t say you do politics differently, then defend this kind of move while negating your own voters. I’m not a Green member either…I still believe and hope for independents…and this is why.

People who don’t like Kinsella and wont vote for a party who hires him, aren’t Liberal or NDP trolls. And we certainly aren’t all dicks. We are progressive, concerned citizens who are tired of hacks, flacks, and toxic partisan political games that these people make their money perfecting. It’s those tactics behind the cynicism that keeps nearly half of Canadians from being engaged or even voting and I can’t vote for anyone who thinks hiring this guy is a good idea.

As my headline quote states, the road to power is paved with hypocrisy and casualties….and the Greens stand to lose more than their credibility on the side the road over this move…they stand to lose everything they’ve worked hard to gain.

* Feel free to comment, but keep it clean and factual. Kinsella is a lawyer.

New erosion gully appears on problematic North slope of Site C, near diversion tunnels

***UPDATED: As they did with every other story broken and photos posted on this site in the last 4 years, BC Hydro once again claims everything is awesome and normal and being monitored and fixed…two media outlets picked this up and their links are posted below the main post***

 

With more rain forecast for the Peace River region, one thing to keep an eye on is this new gully forming on the north slope, just above and down from the diversion tunnels.

These were just taken,  and you will see a large gully ( appears as the large dark vertical crack from top to the road).

Sources say this heavily eroding gully is the  result of a poorly designed drain when the viewing area slid last year, that is  now emptying onto the top of the slope.

You can also get a sense of the scale by zooming in to the truck on the road below the erosion gully, and in looking at other areas of the slope, you can see many other areas of erosion where water has flowed.

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As I have reported here many times over the last few years, the north bank has repeatedly experienced unstable conditions as a result of the challenging geotechnical issues inherent to trying to control the silty, shale like material the banks are comprised of.  They literally  dissolve, crack and fall apart with any water, or shaking earth movements, and a massive excavation of that slope is still underway.

You can read those past reports here: https://lailayuile.com/2018/10/22/new-north-slope-photos-show-vast-expanse-of-material-removed-due-to-past-slides-instability/

Of course BC Hydro repeatedly denied any issues back when I first posted pics of the tension crack that caused so many problems, ( until they could no longer pretend everything was awesome) so I’m sure they’ll say this is just fine too. 😉

Me? I’m still wondering why this government is continuing this exercise in escalating costs trying to build a dam in the most unstable part of the valley, when the rest of Canada and the world is moving ahead using smaller community projects that reduce demand on public utilities.

For comparison purposes to the new pics above, this is a photo of the same slope 3 weeks ago, both original photo and a zoom in, enhanced to show how much the erosion in the new photos above, has progressed.

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Now I know a thing or two about engineering and I know they will eventually get this dam done-I have said this all along. But at what cost, and risk? This is just upstream from the big slide that resulted in the evacuation of many homes and very much the same materials in the slopes here as at the slide. I’m not sure I would ever want to be the engineer signing off on this dam…

Meanwhile…

A town in Alberta goes off grid…

https://globalnews.ca/news/5439656/raymond-alberta-solar-net-zero/

Summerside PEI aims to be electricity independent by 2025…

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.cbc.ca/amp/1.5028543

Airdrie Alberta has completed the largest municipal solar rooftop array…

https://calgary.ctvnews.ca/mobile/canada-s-largest-municipal-rooftop-solar-array-completed-1.4502113

For the cost of Site C and the hydro rate increases that will have to result in order to pay off that beast, we could have undertaken independent solar projects all over BC that would not only reduce demand further, but feed back into the grid when there is excess. Conservation and highly efficient appliances and devices have further reduced demand. Many who are moving to EV’s, are also installing solar to cover the costs of charging.

The upside is that while I have little faith in politicians, I do have faith in the growing number of people pursuing solar and alternative energy and in those actively working to change how we live, work and utilize the resources around us…at the grassroots level. And those people will ultimately be the force that enacts  policy changes at every level of government….including John Horgans.

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*****BC Hydro response in these 2 stories*****

https://www.alaskahighwaynews.ca/site-c/recent-rains-cause-new-erosion-problems-at-site-c-1.23890816

 

https://www.energeticcity.ca/2019/07/erosion-at-site-c-dam-said-to-be-stable/