B.C. Hydro’s plan to have the third dam on the Peace River complete and in service by 2024 has been set back by work scaling down due to COVID-19 restrictions on construction projects, and additional foundation strengthening for the powerhouse and spillway.
In a progress report filed with the B.C. Utilities Commission July 31, B.C. Hydro CEO Chris O’Riley says the Site C project is still on track to divert the Peace River through a pair of tunnels and begin in-river work. But that too has been complicated by geological conditions. The financial impact of the coronavirus delays and additional work will be better known in the fall, O’Riley said.
“Pandemic-related delays will present further cost pressure on the budget,” O’Riley wrote in a letter to BCUC chair David Morton. “As the evolution of the pandemic is uncertain and the date of resolution is unknown, various cost and scheduled impact scenarios continue to be assessed and refined as part of the re-baselining process.”
The incoming NDP government reluctantly decided to carry on with Site C, after former premier Christy Clark vowed to push the project “past the point of no return” before the 2017 B.C. election. In doing so, Premier John Horgan approved an updated cost estimate of $10.7 billion to complete it, an increase of about $1 billion from the initial estimate.
Now the combined effects of COVID-19 and a series of problems have pushed the cost up by an amount not yet known. Those issues included changes to the main civil works contract, increased costs of reservoir clearing, power line construction and highway realignment, and first nations treaty infringement claims and an injunction application.
“Towards the end of December 2019, investigations and analysis of geological mapping and monitoring activities completed during construction identified that some foundation enhancements would be required to increase the stability below the powerhouse, spillway and future dam core areas,” O’Riley wrote.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Site C was on track for completion by fall 2023 and full service to the B.C. Hydro grid by 2024.