Clearing work on the Site C dam project near Fort St. John, 2016. Work has gone on for two years, with $1.7 billion spent and more than 2,000 people working. (BC HYDRO)

Politicians clash on Site hydroelectric project

Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka is speaking out against reviewing the Site C Hydroelectric Dam project but Premier-designate John Horgan said the review would ensure the project is economically viable.

“It is shameful that Mr. Horgan seems to think these jobs are all expendable,” said Shypitka in a statement. “With his rejection of resource projects and jobs, he has lost sight of the common worker. This has a ripple effect and could potentially deter investment and job creation across the province, including here in the Kootenays.”

On May 30, the New Democrats and Greens signed an agreement on how they would work together to form the next government. In it they pledged to refer the Site C Dam project to the BC Utilities Commission for review.

“Horgan’s recent rhetoric about delaying and potentially cancelling the Site C hydroelectric dam project has contributed to a climate of uncertainty and worry for B.C. workers and their families,” said the B.C. Liberals in a statement.

Both the Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC) and the Construction Maintenance and Allied Workers Canada (CMAW) represent workers at the dam and support its continued construction.

“Many of our members have made significant household decisions and commitments based upon the expectation of long-term work,” CLAC B.C. provincial director David Prentice wrote in June 12 letters to both Horgan and BC Green leader Andrew Weaver.

The letter notes that many Site C workers are scheduled to continue work until 2024 and many workers and their families have made ‘significant household decisions and commitments based upon the expectations of long-term work.’ Accordingly, Mr. Horgan’s plan threatens the livelihood and security of these workers and their families.

Horgan said a review was necessary, “to make sure that ratepayers have a full understanding of what the costs are going to be for them going forward.”

This is the first project that BC Hydro has done that has not had BC Utilities Commission approval, he noted.

“We thought that was wrong… so the public, the people who are paying for this will have a full understanding of the consequences of the decision for their pocketbooks,” he said. “What we need is less rhetoric and more substantive action on making sure that not just mining, but forestry and other resource industries can prosper and thrive.”

The most recent figures from BC Hydro show that Site C employs over 2,200 workers.

According to BC Hydro, the Site C Clean Energy Project will be a third dam and hydroelectric generating station on the Peace River in northeast B.C.

It will be an earthfill dam, approximately 1,100 metres in length, and 60 metres high above the riverbed. The reservoir will be approximately 83 kilometres long and will be, on average, two to three times the width of the current river.

Once built, Site C will provide approximately 900 megawatts (MW) of capacity, and produce about 4,600 gigawatt hours (GWh) of electricity each year.