Ryan Aubichon wonders how flood warning signs

Ryan Aubichon wonders how flood warning signs

Signs do little to mitigate flood risk

NANAIMO – City is installing 50 flood evacuation and hazard signs this month in Harewood.

The City of Nanaimo’s new flood evacuation signs are “ridiculous,” according to outraged south-end resident Ryan Aubichon, who says they do little to protect neighbourhoods and could scare potential homebuyers.

Nanaimo city workers posted dozens of flood evacuation signs in Harewood last week, as part of an effort to scale back potential hazards posed by the Colliery dams this winter.

The B.C. Dam Safety Branch has classified the dams as being a public safety risk in extreme weather or a major earthquake and the city is taking the potential risk seriously until it can find a long-term solution, says Toby Seward, the city’s general manager of community safety and development.

Close to 50 evacuation signs now show people how to leave the flood zone and head to higher ground. Another 30 signs could be posted to south-end streets in the future for a total cost of $24,000.

But not everyone in Harewood thinks the surge in signs is a good idea.

Aubichon found a flood-hazard sign in his neighbourhood last week and said it is the “dumbest thing” he has ever seen. It does little to change the perception that Harewood isn’t safe and seems to tell people to “get the hell out” of the neighbourhood, he said.

The south-end resident is concerned it could hurt property values and says it also does nothing to make him feel protected from a potential dam failure. He  wants the City of Nanaimo to drain the dams to eliminate risk while they come up with a long-term solution, pointing out that as a landowner the local government owes him safety.

“If the city thinks [this will mitigate] liability, they are sorely mistaken,” he said. “It’s like putting up a sign at the edge of a cliff saying ‘Cliff. Be Careful’ and not  putting up a proper fence … [the city] is not doing anything to prevent a flood.”

The signage is part of up to $100,000 worth of new interim measures the city is now rolling out and will be taken down in more than a year when long-term solutions for the middle and lower dams are acted on.

But Roblyn Hunter, a member of the Colliery Dam Park Preservation Society, said the signs could have been implemented better. The sheer number is over the top and “totally out of whack” with reality, she said, adding it makes the south end look like a danger zone and could scare those unfamiliar with the dams issue.

“The dams are in the same state they’ve been in for decades, it’s only [the] classification changing,” she said. “There are many other risks in town. If they are going to [do this] for Harewood, they should also be putting tsunami signs downtown or signs along the railway track that [trains are] carrying dangerous goods.”

A public meeting will be held tonight at John Barsby Community School by the park preservation society to explore issues like the evacuation signs. The meeting will go from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.