Dam delays wasting money

Even if the concrete isn’t cracking yet, the Colliery dams are starting to put a gaping crevasse in the public purse.

Fixing a leak doesn’t come cheap.

The Colliery Dams, those century-old slabs that are continuing to keep Harewood high and dry, have at least another year’s reprieve. But even if the concrete isn’t cracking yet, those old dams are starting to put a gaping crevasse in the public purse.

This week, Nanaimo city staff laid out a plan for short-term flood mitigation that will cost somewhere between $50,000-$200,000. Add that to the $700,000 the city had previously spent on dam decision making and that’s a whole lot of money to accomplish very little.

Taxpayers are on the hook for these costs, and what have we gained? We haven’t brought in a single jackhammer or cement mixer. For that matter, we haven’t even decided if these dams are going to be demolished, reinforced or rebuilt.

From the start, the city followed public process, elected officials made a decision and staff set out to address a safety risk. For better or worse, a vocal minority decided that wasn’t good enough and forced its own process. City council wavered the whole way, pushed, prodded and pulled by public opinion.

Everyone involved has had only the best intentions, but we’re left with a worst-case outcome, in a way – hard feelings and high costs.

A lot of folks outside Harewood are probably sick and tired of this whole dam issue and won’t be impressed to learn that this months-long civic rendition of Kumbaya has cost them three quarters of a million dollars.

Whatever we decide with the dams, we had better make sure we get value for dollar the rest of the way. That should be a central tenet of any publicly funded project.

This dam dispute is getting costly and we’ve got nothing to show for it. And that isn’t money well spent.