Provincial order blamed for rising costs of Colliery dam

NANAIMO – City council reviewed construction costs for the Colliery dam Monday.

Higher-than-budgeted construction costs to remediate Nanaimo’s lower Colliery dam are being laid at the door of the B.C. Dam Safety Section and its order to do the work.

Several Nanaimo city councillors took issue Monday with the costs laid out in a staff report on construction of an auxiliary spillway or expressed the need for a full tally of how much has been spent on the Colliery dams.

The report shows work on the lower dam, required by a provincial order, is now estimated at $4.5 million – the high end of an earlier estimate and more than $300,000 over budget.

The project has run into ongoing engineering supervision and environmental monitoring, as well as issues like over-excavation and the need for a temporary bridge. City officials say the typical construction process wasn’t done because of tight timelines, outlined by the province in its order to the city. Remediation of the spillway, for example, was required to be mostly complete by mid-November.

Tracy Samra, interim city manager, said in a normal course of business, the city would have taken time to do work on design, there would have been drilling to get a better basis of information to make an assessment and put together a spillway design.

Geoff Goodall, the city’s director engineering and public works, said the $4.2-million estimate was based on design by Golder Associates which had very little information about the construction area. There was considerable change to the design on a fairly regular basis as new information came in, he said.

Goodall and Samra, now handling the file, have started a review to look at phases of work and money spent. Samra also said there was a meeting with the province last week to talk about next steps and whether it’s receptive to monitoring and data collection on the impact of the spillway over five to 10 years and if, with a “risk-based approach,” there can be limited or no physical improvements. The province hasn’t fully accepted the risk-based approach yet, Samra said.

Nanaimo city councillors talked about the need for a review of total money spent at an open meeting Monday, while some took issue with the numbers in a staff report.

“I’m pissed off. This has cost the city far more than it should have,” said Coun. Gord Fuller, who voted against receiving the information report from city staff on the costs to construct the spillway.

Coun. Bill Yoachim said council should have a breakdown of the finances and asked what’s being done to ensure the “bleeding stops – because the ATM of the Colliery dam has to end,” while Coun. Bill Bestwick said he’s glad there will be some form of audit of money spent.

Coun. Jim Kipp also believes in the need for a total costing for the dams, pointing out there’s not a true accounting on every penny spent.

“We have spent tens of millions at this point. Tens of millions and I’m ready to say take your dam safety branch and take a hike,” Kipp said.

Pop-up banner image ×