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Colliery dam remediation moves forward

The City of Nanaimo has no reason not to look at an alternative solution for the Colliery dams or give people more time to digest the options, according to the spokesman for the Colliery Dam Park Preservation Society.

In a narrow 4-3 vote Monday, Nanaimo city council decided to move ahead with two options proposed by the Colliery dams technical committee, despite calls from the society to look into an alternative they claim is cheaper and less intrusive.

Councillors asked staff to prepare a report outlining next steps and funding options, as well as schedule a public hearing and release the minutes of the technical committee.

According to Coun. Diane Brennan, the measures are a reasonable response to work the technical committee has done over the last eight months. She saw no reason to delay or spend additional money researching another option.

“We’ve had two engineering firms at least who specialize in dams review these dams and come up with proposals,” she said. “It’s time that we made some sort of steps towards making a decision.”

Last week, the City of Nanaimo released options and cost estimates for the Colliery dams. According to the report, two measures are recommended by an engineer to address flood risk at the lower dam, including increasing the size of the spillway for $8.1 million or overtopping for $7.2 million.

The society says it has come up with a cheaper, less intrusive solution for the dams at less than $3 million.

City staff members say the option would require additional evaluation at a cost of another $200,000.

Coun. Jim Kipp said he recognized the society wanted consideration of other options and made a motion to put the Colliery dam process on hold until September, when the technical committee could meet again to discuss concerns and consensus. The bid was supported by Coun. Fred Pattje and Bill McKay.

“If we pass what is on the agenda tonight ... we won’t have been serving our public very well I don’t think because it will leave questions in their minds whether we have looked at everything that we could possibly look at,” Pattje said.

Kipp’s motion failed 4-3 and council opted to stay with staff’s recommendation, although a public hearing proposed for this month has been delayed.

Jeff Solomon, society spokesman, called council’s decision unfortunate and said there was no reason not to consider the alternative, which is “absolutely legitimate.”

The city’s course of actions and the options for the dams also concerns the Dams Direct Action Group, which has  erected a tree platform in the park as a symbolic action.

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