B.C. Hydro is reaching the final stages of construction for the Site C dam on the Peace River, awarding the last four contracts to bring the project to power production in 2025 at a cost of $16 billion.
Nanaimo-based F&M Installations won three of the contracts, for finishing and fixtures in the vast powerhouse and operations building, as well as fire protection and heating and ventilation systems. Those contracts total about $94 million, with completion expected in 2024.
Aecon-Flatiron-Dagrados-EBC Partnership, formed for the main dam works, has signed an $87 million contract to build permanent upstream fishway and other structures outside the powerhouse, intake and spillways, also expected to be complete in 2024.
The Site C project was issued federal and provincial permits to proceed in the fall of 2014, after the third dam on the Peace River had been studied for decades by B.C. Hydro and given the go-ahead by former premier Gordon Campbell. Then-opposition leader John Horgan denounced a decision by Campbell’s successor, Christy Clark, to push the project “past the point of no return” as international opposition formed against it.
Newly sworn in as premier in 2017, Horgan called for the B.C. Utilities Commission to make a rapid review of the project, which by then had $4 billion invested. That review was “inconclusive,” Horgan said, and the NDP government decided to proceed at a projected cost increased by $1 billion to $10.7 billion. Stability issues with one riverbank forced the design of nearly 100 custom-designed steel piles, being driven into the right bank as work continues on the powerhouse and spillway.
Since 2017, Horgan’s NDP government watched its budget balloon to $16 billion for power that will soon need buyers. B.C. Hydro’s 2021 progress report says despite continued uncertainties, it expects to complete the dam within the current budget and timelines.
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. By the end of 2021, the project was more than 55 per cent complete, and targeted to go into service in 2025, with a capacity of 1,100 megawatts, enough power for 450,000 homes.
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