Nanaimo council considers another study on Colliery dams

NANAIMO – City council asked staff members to look into costs for a hydraulic study on the Colliery dams.

Efforts to look at remediation proposals for the Colliery dams have been put on hold, as Nanaimo city council considers a new study.

Councillors are exploring the cost for an extensive hydraulic study, which would review consultants’ findings for the Colliery dams.

The move is a shift from an earlier decision to pursue requests for proposals for remediation of the dams and comes on the heels of requests from residents and the Colliery Dam Park Preservation Society for more information on flood risk and potential for cost savings.

Jeff Solomon, spokesman for the preservation society, said the group feels there are information gaps to define what’s required for the dams, and he’s pleased council is considering the study. Deciding on any other options without this step would have been premature, costly and alienated the community in terms of due process, he said.

City staff presented council with options on how to move forward during an open meeting Monday in response to a notice of motion by Coun. Jim Kipp for a hydraulic study.

The proposals included staying the course with the request for qualification and proposal process; designing and tendering an $8.1-million spillway remediation option; or commissioning a study to test how the erosion would happen in a heavy rainfall.

Politicians opted 8-1 to look into doing the $150,000 to $250,000 hydraulic research, as well as explore issues like the hydrology of the design flood and the effects of flooding in both the middle and lower dams.

Toby Seward, the city’s acting general manager of community planning and protective services, said the study combined with the other, additional reviews could take upwards of four months and would determine if information provided by Golder Associates is accurate or overly conservative and whether a different solution could be put in place.

“The question is, will those additional studies – the ones we are talking about now – will they lead to a different recommendation or remediation?” he asked. “You just don’t know that until you do it, but it’s time and money.”

The next council would decide how the Colliery dams are remediated if the city pursues the study and Nanaimo still faces requirements from the B.C. Dam Safety Branch to complete work next year, according to Seward.

City staff will look at costs for the additional items  as part of the hydraulic research next week.