December 6, 2012 Meeting

On December 6, 2012, the Colliery Dams Preservation Society met with the following groups at City Hall

The purpose of this meeting was to discuss engineering and technical information, such as why so many different numbers have been presented about the costs to repair, replace, or demolish the Colliery Dams.

The following statement was issued by Jeff Solomon following the meetings:

Colliery Dams Preservation Society
Statement on December 6, 2012 Meeting with City Staff 

On Thursday, December 6, 2012, Nanaimo City Staff met with members of the Colliery Dams Preservation Society to share information regarding options and alternatives to removing the Dams as well as discrepancies regarding cost. We also discussed how risk figures were interpreted. Also in attendance were two engineers who had prepared the studies on the dam structures in 2010 and 2012, along with representatives of the Provincial Dam Safety Authority. 

We raised numerous questions about the studies that have been prepared over the years, which clearly indicated that the dams were vulnerable and that there was potential loss of life should they fail. Not only was nothing done to mitigate the risk, but this information was not made public nor was it addressed at any council meeting. On October 22, council in a closed-door meeting approved the expenditure ($7 million) to have the lakes removed. City staff instructions to council were that it was such dire emergency that council had to act and act then. They were told that the Dam Safety Board required a plan by November 30 and based on the extreme risk that was quoted, the costs quoted and that they and the City would be personally held liable if something were to happen, many of the council members felt the only responsible decision was to make the motion to take the dams out. So that is the rationale behind what happened. What doesn’t make sense is that it was known for years that the Dams were vulnerable to an earthquake, that something needed to be done, and there was no public involvement or attempt to explore any other option than to remove the Dams. 

This fact plus the inconceivable loss of the lakes and the destruction of the park as we know it led to a public outcry. Five hundred fifty people attended a community meeting on November 20. 

Council was addressed by our delegation on November 26 and there was a motion passed requiring our delegates to meet with city staff. 

On December 6, twelve of our members met with city staff, Dam Safety Board members, and engineers of the seismic and inundation study. We fielded many questions, some answered satisfactorily, some not. After three full hours of discussion, City staff agreed that they would be putting in the minutes that we would be requesting that Nanaimo City Council ask for cost estimates for options other than removing the dams. 

The Dam Safety Branch made it clear that they had never ordered the removal of the dams but rather had insisted that the City formulate a plan that would mitigate risk (how we decide to do it is our choice.) Staff presented to Council “our best guesses” only, regarding cost. We think exploring costs is only fair and then making the decision based on real costs. It was clear that there is no adequate way to define the costs associated with remediation of the dams or rebuilding them without a plan. This had never been requested previously and it had been previously noted that as early as 2009, the direction from the city was that replacement of the dams or “expensive” improvements was not considered as being a wise use of tax payer funds. The City Manager made it clear that while the request for identifying costs for alternatives was to be presented to council on December 17, they would be forging ahead with the previously accepted direction from council to have the dams removed. At this point, however, only the environmental study has been requested. I have forwarded a letter to staff specifically requesting that no contracts be signed regarding dam removal until the scheduled council meeting on December 17. Our next step is to put together a presentation to council for this meeting. 

So our working group is meeting this morning to discuss the information that came from the Thursday meeting. From there we will begin developing a presentation for the December 17 council meeting. We would really appreciate your support by coming to that meeting. Persistence is the key. It is important to show that we will not go away. Thank you to everyone who has stepped forward to help. In the next week, we will be developing strategies to involve more people. It is important to explore all angles/reasons for the Dams to remain before the time runs out to do so. 

- Jeff Solomon