Group unhappy with Colliery dam options

NANAIMO – The Colliery Dam Park Preservation Society has pulled out of the city's technical committee.

A citizens group has distanced itself from Nanaimo’s Colliery Dam Technical Committee, over options it says the public won’t accept.

The Colliery Dam Park Preservation Society has temporarily withdrawn from the committee tasked with finding solutions for the century-old dams.

Society spokesman Jeff Solomon said the committee seemed like it was coming to the point of making a decision on the dams, despite members not reaching consensus. The society doesn’t support the options currently being looked at and doesn’t believe the public will accept them either. While Solomon wouldn’t go into details about the choices, he confirmed they’re related to spillway capacity and that his society considers the measures intrusive and expensive.

It stepped away to distance itself from a decision and to be able to talk more openly about the dams, emergency measures and potential costs and options tied to the structures, according to Solomon, who said his group wants the committee to take time to explore other solutions.

Committee facilitator Katherine Gordon declined to comment on what the absence of the park preservation society means for the work of the technical group, but Nanaimo Mayor John Ruttan called their absence unfortunate.

“I am just disappointed that people would drop out now at the 11th hour, in advance of the report,“ he said.

The technical committee was struck by Nanaimo city council last year to investigate potential solutions for the Colliery dams, which were flagged as being at an extreme risk of failing in a major earthquake or flood.

Committee members, which include the society, Snuneymuxw and city representatives, have been at the table for eight months and have spent close to $800,000 on research work.

Last week the preservation society announced it left discussions, suggesting it had no real authority in the decision-making process and also expressing dissatisfaction with the committee’s lack of transparency and current options.

“I know this is heading down a road that’s going to blow up very badly…” Solomon said. “They are leaning toward a solution that wouldn’t be acceptable to the general public. It certainly wouldn’t have been acceptable to us.”

The society is trying to meet with city manager Ted Swabey to discuss its concerns.

Toby Seward, the city’s director of social and protective services, said an information report is expected to be released to the public this week.