New deadline given to fix Colliery dam

NANAIMO – Provincial authority cites fines, water licence cancellation as possible consequences.

Nanaimo has 24 days to hand in a plan for the Colliery dams or risk penalties from the provincial government, a letter from the Water Management Branch shows.

The City of Nanaimo has a one-month extension and orders from the province to get on with decision making for the Colliery dams.

The letter warns that failure to meet the new deadline could put the city in breach of the Water Act, which can include compliance and enforcement action that ranges from charges, to an order to drain the reservoir, and suspension or cancellation of the city’s water licences.

“We have to stand up and pay attention now,” said Mayor Bill McKay. “We’ve awoken the bear, so to speak.”

A letter from the B.C. Water Management Branch last week comes after a request by the city for an extension of the province’s Feb. 27 deadline and a political decision four days later to change the schedule to fix the concrete structure to allow for more time to investigate and prepare a revised plan. Politicians also opted to revisit the city’s safety management program, including flood warning signage.

At the time, McKay said it didn’t look like a resolution for the dams would be found by the end of February and that the ball was in the province’s court. The province has now outlined its position in a five-page letter, which orders a revised plan no later than 4 p.m. March 27.

ty has completed “numerous” studies and has sufficient information and options to make an informed decision, according to Glen Davidson, comptroller of water rights and the letter’s author, who says the proposed labyrinth spillway, surface hardening of the dams, auxiliary spillway and removal are all viable options to reduce risk posed by the lower dam’s undersized spillway. The letter also says studies and remediation options for the middle dam are possible, and that the city can’t remove emergency evacuation signage until dam safety hazards have been addressed.

“We’re going to have to have a real frank discussion with our council as to what stand we are going to take, understanding that a higher authority has stated quite clearly that they have expectations of us and if not we will face consequences,” said McKay, who suggests consulting legal counsel. “You have certain members of council that may choose to take on the province.”

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