Calling it a “difficult decision,” the B.C. government has decided to go ahead with the controversial Site C hydroelectric dam, paving the way for work to restart.
“At the end of the day, we’ve come to a conclusion that, although Site C is not the project we would have favoured or would have started, it must be completed,” said Premier John Horgan in announcing the decision.
“This is a very, very divisive issue, and will have profound impact … for a lot of British Columbians. We have not been taking this decision lightly.”
The NDP government had been debating whether to continue the construction of the dam — which will flood 5,500 hectares of the Peace River valley and displace many Indigenous communities and farmers — or cancel the work midway through the job.
Ultimately, the government concluded that cancelling the project near Fort St. John would result in a 12-per-cent increase in hydro rates in 2020. It also forecast overall rates would be nearly twice as high for 20 years beyond 2020 if it cancelled Site C — or would leave the government with significantly less money to spend on other infrastructure spending.
An estimated $2 billion has been spent so far on the dam, announced by the previous B.C. Liberal government in 2014.
The government now expects the dam, originally budgeted at $8.3 billion, will cost approximately $10 billion, with $700 million set aside in a reserve for overruns.
The B.C. Utilities Commission, the independent energy regulator, concluded in its assessment that the dam is over budget and behind its scheduled completion of 2024.
The dam has been marked by deeply divisive approaches to environmental, economic, technological and Indigenous concerns that have become the front lines of political battles in B.C.
Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver immediately announced his displeasure with the decision, saying he and his two other MLAs were “extremely disheartened.”
“Today, Site C is no longer simply a B.C. Liberal boondoggle — it has now become the B.C. NDP’s project. They are accountable to British Columbians for the impact this project will have on our future,” he said in a statement.
However, he has said his party, which holds the balance of power in B.C.’s legislature, would not attempt to force an election over the issue.