Steve Alexander spends an afternoon fishing at Colliery Dam Park’s upper dam Wednesday. The dams in the park have been given a 30-day reprieve from demolition following a decision by Nanaimo city council Monday night.

Steve Alexander spends an afternoon fishing at Colliery Dam Park’s upper dam Wednesday. The dams in the park have been given a 30-day reprieve from demolition following a decision by Nanaimo city council Monday night.

City delays dam removal contract decision to consult with Snuneymuxw

NANAIMO – Two dams in Colliery Dam Park will remain intact for at least another month after council delays decision on dam removal tender.

Two dams in Colliery Dam Park will remain intact for at least another month after Nanaimo city council decided to consult on the issue for another 30 days.

City council was expected to pick a company to do the dam removal work at Monday’s meeting, but a presentation from Snuneymuxw First Nation Chief Douglas White III prompted Coun. Bill McKay to make a motion to conduct further discussions with the Snuneymuxw and exhaust all of the possible options and considerations before awarding a contract for removal of the dams.

White told council the May 13 decision to tear down the dams, then rebuild them at some point with a hydroelectric component, went in a different direction than what had been talked about up until then and could potentially be the riskiest path to take in terms of the health of the river.

“Fisheries always matter to the Snuneymuxw,” he said. “We do believe that there’s time right now to be taken, that we have time in front of us to be able to repair and get ourselves back onto a path of partnership and mutuality and recognition and respect. I believe that we have time to look at this issue because of the critical nature of it and the importance of the outcomes of the decision.”

White also told council he believed rebuilding the dams is extremely unlikely given the province has told them it is very rare that dams are approved to be built or rebuilt for recreational purposes.

The motion passed 7-1, with only Coun. Ted Greves opposing. Coun. Bill Bestwick was absent.

While another 55 people had signed up to speak on dam removal issue after White, council decided to postpone the delegations, given that the topic they intended to speak on would not be discussed that evening after all.

Had the contract been awarded – city staff was recommending that Milner Group Ventures Inc. do the work for a little more than $2.9 million – removal would have started the week of July 18.

Mayor John Ruttan said the 30-day window negatively impacts the construction timeframe, but that hopefully there will still be enough time to deconstruct one or both of the dams before the rains come in the fall.

“This whole thing to me is all around public safety,” he said. “They’re the two biggest-risk dams in British Columbia. They need to come down. So now the issue is what do you want to see afterward. Now we need to meet with the Snuneymuxw First Nation and find out what they envision as a possible route forward.”

Ruttan said according to city estimates, deconstructing the dams and re-naturalizing the river comes with a price tag of about $7 million and deconstructing the dams and then rebuilding them would cost around $12 million, but he did not know if the province would veto the proposal to rebuild the dams as White suggested.

White said Snuneymuxw has not come to any decision on the best way to move forward and that what is needed is time to look at the options.

Jeff Solomon, Colliery Dam Preservation Society spokesman, said simply ripping the dams out could be detrimental to the health of the river.

“Putting a good plan in place that works for everybody is really the goal,” he said, adding that his group is willing to pay for a study to show how the water level can be lowered in both dams to mitigate the risk in the short-term.

The city estimates that de-watering would cost $400,000 per dam per month.

Just Posted

A section of the rail corridor on Vancouver Island. (Black Press file photo)
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Put rail trail right overtop of the tracks

Removing tracks would be a horrendous expense, says letter writer

District of Lantzville Mayor Mark Swain, left, and Snaw-Naw-As Chief Gordon Edwards sign a memorandum of understanding outside Snaw-Naw-As Market on Friday, June 18. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)
Lantzville and Snaw-Naw-As sign memorandum of understanding

District and First Nation create joint working group

Things are looking up for Vancouver Island as zero COVID-19 cases have been reported for the first time since October. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Island records zero new COVID-19 cases for the first time since October

For the first time since October, the province is reporting zero new… Continue reading

Black Press file photo
RCMP seek suspect in Vancouver Island-wide crime spree

Crimes stretched from Deep Bay to Qualicum, Ladysmith, Chemainus and Youbou

Tilray announces new line of products offering more inexpensive choices for medical cannabis users. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo-based Tilray launches new medical cannabis product line

Symbios brand products offered at ‘better price point’ for medical cannabis products

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Janice Coady, left, Aimee Chalifoux and Linda Milford at a vigil for Amy Watts on Wednesday, June 16, outside Nanaimo city hall. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)
‘We need to do better,’ says mother of woman killed in Nanaimo

Vigil held for former outreach worker Amy Watts, whose body was found downtown June 3

Central Okanagan Grade 12 grads are set to get $500 each after a more than $1 million donation from a Kelowna couple. (File photo)
B.C. couple donating $500 to every Grade 12 student in the Okanagan

Anonymous donors identified as Kelowna entrepreneurs Lance and Tammy Torgerson

Rita Coolidge played the main stage at Vancouver Island Musicfest in 2017. (Black Press file photo)
This year’s Vancouver Island MusicFest to virtually showcase beauty of Comox Valley

Returning July 9 through 11 with more than 25 hours of music performances

British Columbia’s premier says he’s received a second dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. (Twitter/John Horgan)
B.C. premier gets 2nd dose of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

John Horgan shared a photo of himself on social media Friday afternoon holding a completed vaccination card

A lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018.THE CANADIAN PRESS
No winning ticket sold for Friday’s $70 million Lotto Max jackpot

The huge jackpot has remained unclaimed for several weeks now

The B.C. Ministry of Education has announced close to $44 million for the province’s schools for COVID-19 recovery. (News Bulletin file)
Nanaimo-Ladysmith school stakeholders say COVID-19 recovery funding can make a difference

B.C. Ministry of Education announces it expects a ‘near-normal’ return to class in September

Regional District of Nanaimo is looking to repair sewage pipe in the Hammond Bay Road area, which was corroded by gas. (Black Press file)
Corroded sewer pipe along Nanaimo’s Hammond Bay Road will cost $5.5 million to fix

Pipe replacement and reinforcement part of $6.9-million infrastructure project

Most Read