Nanaimo considers investigation into Colliery dam issue

NANAIMO – Terms of reference have been created for an investigation into the Colliery dam process.

Nanaimo city council could put a magnifying glass on the three-year Colliery dam issue in a new investigation.

Council agreed to move forward with a fix for the lower Colliery dam in an 11th-hour decision in July, but not without calls for an independent investigation that would focus on problems and issues tied to engineering, governance and public engagement.

Two councils and a technical committee grappled with the question of what to do to remediate the Colliery dams. the issue prompted public outcry, a B.C. government order and will cost taxpayers upwards of $2.6 million.

The issue first landed in the public arena in 2012 when city council announced a decision to demolish the dams and naturalize the park to address safety hazard concerns by the province. Council has since decided to remediate the lower dam with an auxiliary spillway.

It has yet to decide the fate of the middle Colliery dam.

According to a report to be considered by council at its meeting Monday (Oct. 19) night, an investigation will ask the question of how the process leading to the city’s decision on the Colliery dams could have been better. It would be undertaken by an investigator from outside the City of Nanaimo and will be independent and neutral of city council.

The cost is not yet known.

Mayor Bill McKay said the Colliery dams is a “very complicated file” that as you learned more, you started to make new decisions.

He hopes to get a chronology of events from someone with fresh eyes.

“It will hopefully set the record straight in a factual manner without a motion, without preconceived ideas, as to what happened from start to finish,” he said, adding there’s a tremendous amount of misinformation about the Colliery dams and how the city got to where it is today.

Coun. Jerry Hong said the investigation is not about finding blame for the process, but how to avoid this issue again.

With other dams, Hong wants this to be a learning experience.

Coun. Gord Fuller was unaware the investigation was going to a public meeting and might ask council to hold off on a decision.

“We didn’t see a rush to do this. I want to get this one right,” he said.

But when it comes to an investigation, Fuller said if there’s any question of wrongdoing in the spending of $8 million, they need to find out what it is.