Main civil works contract awarded for Site C

By on December 1, 2015
B.C. Premier Christy Clark makes the contract announcement in Burnaby. Photo: B.C. Government

B.C. Premier Christy Clark makes the contract announcement in Burnaby.
Photo: B.C. Government

FORT ST. JOHN – Another brick has been laid for the groundwork of the contentious Site C Clean Energy Project, this time coming in the form of a main civil works contract awarded to a local company.

The $1.5-billion contract, now belonging to Peace River Hydro Partners, a consortium of companies including ACCIONA Infrastructure Canada Inc, Petrowest and Samsung C&T Canada, will be the largest BC Hydro contract to be awarded on the project and will not only include construction of an earth-filled dam but also diversion tunnels, foundations and spillways.

“Peace River Hydro Partners (PRHP) are excited to be part of building a legacy project that will benefit British Columbians for generations to come,” said Rick Quigley, a member of PRHP during the announcement in Burnaby.

Although the contract would create about 8,000 jobs with 1,500 people working at the peak of construction, according to Ken Boon, president of the Peace Valley Landowners Association, the contract is galling.

“I know what the government’s trying to do here. They want to award a $1.5-billion project to supposedly a B.C. contractor, Fort St. John contractor and so that people think, ‘oh, my god, that’s it, it’s done. There’s no way this can be stopped’ that is just not the case,” he said.

“Meanwhile…there [are] four legal challenges to this project that any one of them could shut it down,” he added.   

According to the press release issued by BC Hydro, to help meet the industry demands on the project, both for employment and business opportunities, the energy conglomerate will hold job fairs and networking sessions in the coming year to help move the project forward.   

“As B.C.’s diverse economy continues to grow, Site C is part of our vision to meet long-term energy needs, providing clean, renewable and affordable electricity for generations,” said B.C. Premier, Christy Clark during the announcement.

Boon, along with the PVLA, feel otherwise. He explained that while project supporters say it will create opportunities to the local community and that construction will contribute $3.2-billion to the province, he said he feels that the project will not benefit BCers in the long run.

“There’s such a poor return of investment on Site C and the huge cost it has, socially and natural capital and loss of farmland. When you add up all the costs…above and beyond the $9-billion simple price tag that they say it’s going to cost to build it…it’s almost immeasurable ” he said.

According to Boon, the best thing to do would be to shut it down and look at alternatives to the dam that are both green and sustainable.

“We can go a long way down the road on Site C and the bills can keep racking up and it still would make sense to shut it down and we would still come out ahead as tax payers and rate payers,” Boon added.

In order to be considered for the contract, companies had to submit proposals and after heavy vetting, PRHP was ultimately chosen for its record of delivering on projects of a similar size. The contract will be signed in 2016 and other contracts will be awarded accordingly in the coming years.

“Main civil works is the single largest work package for Site C and it will provide jobs and economic benefits for the Peace region,” said Mike Bernier, Peace River South MLA.

According to BC Hydro’s release, the contract is for the majority of earthwork such as excavation, diverting the river and the building of two tunnels measuring about 700 metres long. The project will also include the main earthfill dam that will be 1,050 metres long and 60 metres high.

The plans, which will also include road work, have not phased Boon, who hopes that the NDP party will take a serious look at the project if elected in the B.C., provincial election in 2017.

“I think they have a full appreciation of the hidden cost in this project and that there’d be real value in still shutting it down and go on with the alternatives,” he said, referring to John Horgan, BC NDP leader’s promise to do away with the project.

If the project does continue the way it’s going, the PRHP said it’s committed to the local sector. According to the release, the group of companies plan to see 600 construction workers on site in a year and a half alongside manufacturing and transport services.

Regardless of how many jobs are created, Boon feels that the project is short sighted.

“We see how the government goes about trying to make it look like this is all just about jobs and yeah, sure, jobs are important. We’re not opposed to jobs and with the slow-down in the oil patch, there is a need, it is very attractive to have more jobs coming from other sources right now,” he said.

“That’s where the government has let us down…that doesn’t mean you do a knee-jerk reaction and build the worst possible project you could do,” he added.

He explained that by developing smaller sustainable projects throughout the province, it would allow people to work closer to home, thus eliminating the need for worker camps.

“You build them as you need them…and you avoid all this boom and bust cycle that we’re all too familiar with up here,” said Boon.

In addition to the PRHP, the Christian Labour Association Canada (CLAC) and Construction Maintenance and Allied Workers Canada (CMAW) will also be involved in the contract. Meanwhile, the work will continue and according to Quigley, the prospect of the dam is an exciting venture.

“We look forward to working closely with local workers and First Nation communities to maximize the economic opportunity for families in the Peace region.”

Julia Lovett

reporter@northeastnews.ca

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