Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Decision Makers, Dissenters Set Sights on Site C Project Price Tag

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Decision Makers, Dissenters Set Sights on Site C Project Price Tag

Article excerpt

Opponents turn attention to Site C costs

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VANCOUVER - With provincial and federal environmental certificates now in hand, BC Hydro faces a much tougher hurdle for its massive Site C hydroelectric project -- the bottom line.

The Crown agency estimates it will cost $7.9 billion to build the dam on the Peace River, making it the largest provincial public expenditure in the next two decades and the second-largest in the country right now.

It would take a decade to build and would be expected to power the province for a century.

"Site C is not an ordinary project," a joint environmental assessment panel said in its report.

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency report said there is little doubt about BC Hydro's competence to build and operate the project efficiently, but it fell short of endorsing the Crown agency's estimates.

"The Panel cannot conclude on the likely accuracy of project cost estimates because it does not have the information, time, or resources," the report said.

They recommended that if the project proceeds, it should be referred to the BC Utilities Commission for a detailed examination.

But Energy Minister Bill Bennett has been steadfast.

"You have to ask yourself what the BCUC would do if this suddenly landed in their lap? I think probably they would go out and do exactly what BC Hydro has already done and duplicate the already considerable cost that's been involved in looking at the costs of Site C and make sure they're accurate," Bennett said last week.

An independent engineering group, an independent construction management group and KPMG have all reviewed the estimates at Hydro's behest, he said.

And there is an 18 per cent contingency built into $3.8 billion for construction costs, which would cover any overruns, he added.

"I believe that BC Hydro has brought a sufficient number and quality of experts into this business of assessing the costs that we have, I think, a reliable number at this time."

Utilities commission or not, someone needs to check the math, said Jordan Bateman, B.C. director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

"This is such a massive investment, you better make sure that these numbers are solid and that the long-term interests are protected," he said, adding that members are split right down the middle on the project. …

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