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Nanaimo's spending on Colliery dams tops $1.6 million

Expenses tied into the century-old Colliery dams now top $1.6 million, according to the City of Nanaimo.

Nanaimo officials say $1.6 million has been spent on the Colliery dams since 2012, including close to half a million dollars for work commissioned through a new technical committee.

The most recent costs – estimated at $470,000 – come from engineering firm Golder Associates, which was hired by a technical committee of city representatives and special interest groups to research remediation options.

City staff members had originally pegged the work to cost between $100,000 and $400,000, but it was only a rough estimate, according to Tom Hickey, the city’s general manager of community services, who said they hadn’t previously known the scope of work. Expenses are still within more than $2 million set aside for mitigation work and isn’t expected to hit taxpayers in the pocketbook, but Mayor John Ruttan says he still expects criticism from the public.

“I don’t think the taxpayer will be happy about it, but I don’t know we had an alternative,” he said, adding if there was support to get an early start on the dams, circumstance might have been different.

As it stands, the project is like a taxi, he said – “the longer you ride, the more you pay.”

“It’s just a really frustrating thing all the way around and very expensive thing all the way around, but finally we are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Ruttan said.

Multi-phased work on the dams kicked off in October, when Nanaimo city council unanimously agreed to launch a two-year process to address the risk posed by the middle and lower Colliery dams during a major quake or flood. The process focuses on remediation of concrete structures – an option council originally dismissed because of an estimated $17-million to $30.7-million price tag.

The technical committee and Golder Associates have been charged with reviewing data and coming up with options for long-term repairs.

Golder, which recently did core drilling work to test the state of the dams, is expected to present its findings around remediation this month. It is not known if the information will be made public.

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