BREAKING: Halt Site C – former Hydro CEO Marc Eliesen, dam engineer Ken Farquharson

1 December 2020

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Halt Site C and launch probe into lax safety oversight of dam project, longtime dam engineer and former BC Hydro CEO urge government

The BC Government is not doing near enough to ensure that a safe dam is built at Site C, says a former CEO and president of BC Hydro and a retired engineer with more than four decades experience, including at BC Hydro’s Mica and Keenleyside dams.

“The government is knowingly taking advice on Site C from an ‘independent engineer’ with deep ties to BC Hydro. It’s also acted swiftly on one notable occasion to accept that engineer’s advice when circumstances called for extreme caution. And now we have big problems at Site C. As a former engineer and a resident of British Columbian, I am deeply concerned by the government’s attitude when it comes to the safety of this project,” says Ken Farquharson.

Farquharson, former BC Hydro CEO and president Marc Eliesen, and the Peace Valley Landowners Association are calling for an immediate halt to construction at Site C and the appointment of an independent panel of experts with no ties to BC Hydro to assess all geotechnical and safety risks at Site C as well as the government’s oversight of the project.

The call comes after new research was released today by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives showing that:

The provincial government office responsible for dam safety is knowingly taking advice on BC Hydro’s Site C project from Tim Little, an “independent engineer” who worked for years for BC Hydro and who continues to be paid as a consultant by the utility.
As of January, provincial dam safety officials had received 137 reports from Little, including one where he recommended a radical alteration to construction plans. The government took just hours to approve the risky change.
The change resulted in massive amounts of concrete being poured at Site C long before a critical drainage tunnel was completed first. Now, the dramatically altered building plan appears to have contributed to all of that concrete moving.
The government promised to release all of Little’s reports to the CCPA, but after a seven-week delay told the CCPA it would have to file a time-consuming Freedom of Information request instead. Only two of Little’s reports are in the public realm as part of a filing in BC Supreme Court.

“There are people living in the Peace Valley whose lives are most at risk should Site C be built and later fail,” says Ken Boon, a Peace Valley farmer and president of the Peace Valley Landowner Association. “The government owes a duty to them, and everyone else, to take its responsibilities for dam safety seriously. Given the mounting geotechnical problems at Site C, the safest most responsible thing to do would be to scrap this project all together.”

 

“With $5 billion to $6 billion already spent on this boondoggle of a project, the public deserves to know whether Site C can be safely completed, if at all,” Eliesen said. “Sadly, the CCPA has unearthed ample evidence that the government isn’t taking its regulatory responsibilities nearly seriously enough. Ensuring the safe design, construction and maintenance of all dams in the province is the government’s regulatory responsibility. It’s long past time that the government took that responsibility seriously.”

Media contacts:

Ken Boon
Marc Eliesen
Ken Farquharson

Media questions, call 604-313-7744

Please also see the exposé by Ben Parfitt of the BC CCPA, out today: Who’s minding the shop at Site C?