Nanaimo council asks for stay on Colliery dam order

NANAIMO – Coun. Jim Kipp proposes another remediation option.

The City of Nanaimo will fight the province’s order to remediate the Colliery dams.

Nanaimo city council voted 8-1 at an open meeting Monday to request a stay against the provincial order for the dams and file an appeal with the Environmental Appeal Board.

It will also send the Dam Safety Section a beautification and dam-hardening remediation proposal, which is anticipated to address potential safety hazards and add extra features, like an amphitheatre and wheelchair ramp, for less than $3 million.

Coun. Jim Kipp introduced the idea – an alternative overtopping method from the engineering firm GSI – which he said is part of an effort to come up with a solution that’s acceptable. It’s a credible method and least expensive and least intrusive, according to supporter Coun. Bill Bestwick, who called for a stay and appeal based on the information and the need for time to pursue the option.

It’s unknown if council will be able to get a stay, which, if granted, would prevent the city from having to do remediation while the province’s order is in dispute.

It’s estimated to cost $20,000 to $40,000 to prepare, and the city’s solicitor has advised it’s difficult to get.

City bureaucrats are also not convinced the province will accept the alternative option.

Staff say the plan doesn’t meet Dam Safety regulations, lacks an engineered design and needs to be peer-reviewed by an engineer because the method has never been applied to a B.C. dam.

The proposal also isn’t all that new. GSI offered a Colliery solution for less than $3 million to council last year, and while the company has been included in staff recommendations as something to explore, politicians haven’t previously directed staff to pursue it, according to Toby Seward, the city’s acting general manager of community development and protective services.

City manager Ted Swabey told council it was on their radar but the challenge now is it’s past the deadline.

“I don’t think that it meets dam safety requirements and I don’t think you can do it this year, but at least we are talking in a common way that there’s a solution that you might be able to get behind,” he said.

Mayor Bill McKay said that he supported the alternative and the stay because it’s moving forward and Bestwick believes the Dam Safety Section would be respectful of the city’s willingness to spend on a stay and appeal to get the right answer and “take on the opportunity.”

“This, to me, has been an expense up until now. Everything after this, to me, is an investment,” Bestwick said.