Direct award contracts on dam are concerning

The clearing for the Site C reservoir is in full swing at Bear Flat, where work is happening up Cache and Red Creek, and downriver on the Peace. Clearing is also happening again on the Moberly River, and along the Peace near Wilder Creek. Death by a thousand cuts is slowly taking place in the valley.

It’s noteworthy that a recent report by the CD Howe Institute has pointed out it still makes sense to stop the project despite the money already spent. Obviously, that’s the sign of a really bad project. Site C is not yet “past the point of no return,” and should the project stop for whatever reason, the trees will grow back.

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However, today I wish to comment on what I view as a culture of entitlement held by many involved with the Site C project. Most recently, this was triggered for me by the extremely expensive nature of the clearing we are witness to from our home at Bear Flat.

First, I understand that it is difficult for us to judge what we see happening without fully knowing the challenges on the ground. I also acknowledge that any contractor doing this sort of clearing is up against challenges not normally encountered in a normal logging show. However, having said that, I feel it is my duty to report on what can only be described as a complete dog and pony show.

The clearing contracts currently taking place are Direct Award contracts with no competitive bidding. To my knowledge, that means work is billed out essentially on a cost plus basis.

Judging by the incredible amount of equipment and manpower on the job every day versus what is getting done; it appears to me that BC ratepayers are getting hosed. From what I can see, we are likely setting a new world record for the most expensive land clearing ever. Even if you are among those who support this project, you should be upset about the vast amount of money that is being wasted.

A recent article in The Narwhal raises concerns with how these Direct Award contracts are being awarded by BC Hydro. Who is looking after the interest of BC ratepayers? How do we know we are not getting fleeced? Is the top secret Project Assurance Board going to do that for us? I doubt it. I think the BC Government and BC Hydro are content to just keep shoveling out the money and not have any bad press. I wonder when we will once again find out the project is over budget?

I think many Fort St. John locals know about the inefficiencies and waste with the project. Despite much of the project being out of sight and out of mind for many, town is full of stories about the many gong shows that are happening at Site C. Furthermore, the blame likely falls more on the government and BC Hydro management than on contractors.

I take no pleasure with “ratting” on any Site C contractors. I simply find it frustrating that no one is speaking out about a big problem with the project. While I have been disappointed by the lack of whistleblowers, I can understand the reluctance of people to come forward to speak out against what they see as bad practices. There can be consequences for doing so, and it can get complicated.

For instance, I have considered talking to the contractor on Cache Creek about acquiring a set of house building logs from the patch of large spruce they are logging up there. Even with the change in the highway design at Bear Flat, the sloughing banks of the reservoir will take away our house at some point. Being a log builder, I would like to build a house with logs taken from the creek near our home; sort of like saving a little piece of what used to be here.

However, I decided to write this opinion piece instead. I doubt the contractor will want to work with me now, but I feel better.

— Ken Boon, Bear Flat

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