Premier Christy Clark has given BC NDP Leader John Horgan and BC Green Leader Andrew Weaver a four-day ultimatum on a decision to ramp down work on the Site C dam.
Such a delay would cost $600 million, Clark warned in a June 6 letter to Horgan, in response to his request last week to BC Hydro CEO Jessica McDonald to rein in activities on the project. For Horgan, that includes the signing of contracts and the eviction of residents at Bear Flat in the path of Highway 29 realignment, as he hopes to form a minority government in the coming weeks and order a utilities commission review of the project.
But the project is following a strict and intricate schedule to remain "on track and on budget," Clark said, with a decision to proceed on Highway 29 realignment at Bear Flat needed by June 15.
The realignment is a two-year project needed before a planned river diversion in September 2019, Clark wrote, and delaying the June 15 decision and relocation of two homes in the path of construction would push diversion to 2020 at an added cost of $600 million.
"As the government is in a possible period of transition, I wanted you to have the benefit of this information as we move forward," Clark wrote in the letter, with a copy to Bear Flat residents Ken and Arlene Boon.
"In addition, there are other decisions that will need to be made this month, that are essential to keeping the project on budget and on time."
Clark did not specify those other decisions. But she gave the leaders until this Saturday, June 10, to tell her whether they will continue to push for the delay in relocating homes, and whether they want the government to issue a "tools down" order to BC Hydro on other project decisions—"given that the project is likely to progress past the 'point of no return' before the BCUC review you have suggested could be reasonably concluded," Clark wrote.
BC Hydro reported that 2,212 workers were working on the dam as of April 2017, with 80 per cent of the workers from B.C. There were 648 Peace Region residents working on the dam, or 29 per cent of the total workforce.
In a response, Horgan called Clark's claims about the extra costs "unsupported" and urged her to immediately recall the legislature and face a confidence vote.
"I made this request because I will not allow British Columbians to be hit with even higher hydro rates due to your mismanagement of this project," Horgan wrote.
"I also stand by my commitment to send this project to an independent review to determine if it is in the best interests of British Columbians."
Weaver responded by noting that Dr. Harry Swain, who chaired the federal-provincial joint review panel that oversaw the dam’s environmental assessment in 2013 and 2014, has criticized Clark and her government for not fully evaluating the economics of the $8.8-billion project with a utilities commission review.
"Your government is turning a significant capital project that potentially poses massive economic risks to British Columbians, into a political debate rather than one informed by evidence and supported by independent analysis," Weaver wrote.
He requested access to documents from Clark to back her claims on the cost increases, from signed contracts, alternative construction timelines, and briefing notes related to the project.