The NDP won’t be pulling the plug on the $800 million Ruskin Dam upgrade should it get elected in May, according to NDP energy critic John Horgan, who is dismissing Liberal energy minister Rich Coleman’s claims of otherwise.
Coleman stated Tuesday that the NDP’s stance on B.C. Hydro could threaten the dam’s redevelopment.
“It’s time for the NDP to come clean with British Columbians which projects across B.C. are in jeopardy of being delayed. Is it the Northwest Transmission Line, upgrades at the Shrum facility in the Peace, the John Hart Dam project or is it the Ruskin Dam?” said Coleman.
“The NDP [is] willing to put 165 jobs over six years at risk, this is something our government is not willing to do.”
However, Horgan said the Ruskin Dam renovations would not be stopped.
“The Ruskin Dam is a good project, it’s the kind of project we support,” Horgan said.
He cited the dam’s location close to the Lower Mainland, the fact that it’s publicly owned, and its small environmental footprint as an existing heritage site as reasons to move forward with the project.
“A lot of planning has gone into this project, it’s already gone through an independent third party review … it’s an ideal project,” Horgan said. “For [Coleman] to make mischief like this, it’s irresponsible on his part.”
The $800 million Ruskin Dam project got underway last year, and is expected to be complete by 2018. In addition to upgrades to its generators, the dam will also be seismically upgraded to ensure it remains intact in the event of an earthquake.
Due to those seismic concerns, had the dam not been upgraded, it would have to be decommissioned instead, at a cost of $250 to $300 million, according to Maple Ridge-Mission Liberal MLA Marc Dalton.
“The people in Ruskin understand this is a safety issue,” he said.
However, Horgan said some Hydro projects the Liberals have committed to would be reviewed should the NDP come to power, and could be delayed due to exorbitant costs.
“The Liberals have saddled British Colombians with burgeoning rates and runaway debt,” he said. “There’s $18 billion of Hydro projects on their wish list, and I’m not convinced all of these are in the best interest of British Colombians.”
Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows NDP MLA Mike Sather noted the contract the province has with independent power producers to purchase run-of-river electricity is costing B.C. Hydro more than $100 per megawatt/hour, 10 times the current market rate.
“Run-of-river, on the face of it, is a good idea: It’s greener than gas, coal, or oil,” said Sather. “But they’ve done without any filter … or due diligence.”
The kind of spending the Liberals are proposing for B.C. Hydro isn’t sustainable, he contended.
“They are by far the biggest spending government B.C. has ever seen,” Sather added. “I don’t think we should spend beyond our means.”
Both Coleman and Dalton want the NDP need to get specific about which Hydro projects they would delay or cancel, as it could risk jobs and negatively affect the economy.
Dalton noted the high price per megawatt factors in capital costs independent power producers have paid to build run-of-river operations, while “heritage” sites like the WAC Bennett Dam provide cheap power because taxpayers have long since paid for construction costs.
“We are still benefitting from investments made years ago by [former B.C. premier] WAC Bennett,” Dalton said. “But if we want to maintain the lowest rates in North America, we need to invest again.
“It’s expensive right now, but we benefit down the road.”