Nanaimo mayor meets provincial minister to talk Colliery dams

NANAIMO – A government-to-government meeting was held Monday on the Colliery dams. Mayor says no new information came out of discussion.

The Dam Safety Section hasn’t offered an extension for the Colliery dams and B.C. Natural Resource Minister Steve Thomson won’t usurp the authority of his staff.

That’s according to Mayor Bill McKay, who met with the minister and other provincial representatives Monday evening, just four days ahead of the provincial deadline for a Colliery dams remediation plan.

McKay called for a meeting in early March as city officials and the Colliery Dam Park Preservation Society remained deadlocked over next steps to address safety hazards at the century-old structures.

City council has since decided to swap remediation of the dams for a revised emergency preparedness, surveillance and action plans to route flood water, and to revive the technical committee, which will meet today (March 26) or Friday.

The mayor says there has been no word from provincial representatives whether politicians’ recent decision will satisfy requirements and nothing new came out of the “information” meeting, which included Glen Davidson, director and comptroller of water rights; Tom Ethier, assistant deputy minister for Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations; and Toby Seward, the city’s acting general manager of social and protective services. No city councillors were present.

“What’s encouraging is that the minster seems to be taking an … active role,” said McKay, who brought Thomson up to speed on the positions of different parties and where the city stands with the dams.

“When you are at the mercy of a higher authority, you simply hope that if you have conversations and ongoing dialogue with them that they will realize your position and realize the situation you find yourself in and perhaps grant some leeway.”

The city will now reassemble the disbanded technical committee to review council’s latest directive  around three plans for the Colliery dams, although not all members are expected to return.

The Snuneymuxw had not yet responded to the city’s invitation before press time Wednesday, and council has given no direction to re-hire a facilitator or its engineering consultants, Golder Associates. Seward said Dam Safety Section representatives also won’t likely attend.

In a recent letter to mayor and council, Colliery Dam Park Preservation Society said it hadn’t been contacted to be part of the committee as of Monday and that it appeared city staff have adopted a “do-nothing” approach. Seward told the News Bulletin the city wanted to get through the meeting with the minister first and had to coordinate the committee session, which included advising the province and Snuneymuxw.

McKay said the suggestion that the administration isn’t following council’s motions is untrue and he resents the implication city staff are trying to “stall this.”

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