Nanaimo proceeds with Colliery dam investigation

NANAIMO – No cost yet for Colliery dam investigation while request for proposals anticipated to go out next week.

A new city investigation will scrutinize the history of the Colliery dams issue, despite concern the work isn’t worth the money.

Nanaimo city council agreed in a tight 4-3 vote Monday to advertise for an independent investigator to review the process and decisions linked to the Colliery dams.

For three years, council grappled with the question of what to do with the middle and lower dams, which are considered by the B.C. Dam Safety Section to pose potential safety risks. In April, B.C.’s comptroller of water rights slapped the municipality with an order to remediate the dams, after the city failed to meet a request for revised plans.

Councillors decided days before their deadline expired in July to construct an auxiliary spillway, as well as launch an investigation into the Colliery dams. A new staff report with the mandate and terms of reference for the review shows the work will look into the process, decisions and actions made by the city and its council around the Colliery dams from as far back as 2012. The work will not be confidential and city manager Ted Swabey said people will not be compelled to participate. The price tag is not yet known, but Swabey anticipates it will be an expensive undertaking and cost more than $50,000.

Councillors Ian Thorpe, Diane Brennan and Wendy Pratt took issue with the expense with criticisms that it’s not worthwhile and a waste of taxpayer money.

Thorpe said he initially voted for the investigation because it was part of an omnibus bill that allowed council to proceed with remediation of the dams, but he doesn’t feel the time and money spent on it will be worthwhile, while Pratt questioned the value of spending money to come to a conclusion that mistakes might have been made.

“I see it just as one more way of dragging our community through the mud a little bit more on this issue,” she said.

Coun. Jerry Hong was disappointed with council, who he expected would vote yes to the investigation process after its unanimous agreement in July.

Neither is the Colliery dams issue over. There’s still the middle dam to deal with, said Hong, who hopes the investigation finds mistakes and that they are learned from.

Coun. Gord Fuller said he wants the investigation to be serious and thorough.

“We did have a select committee that proved to be, you know, less than it could have been. I don’t want this to be less than it could be,” he said.

A request for proposals on an investigation is anticipated to be out next week.

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