Thursday, July 18, 2013

Colliery Dam Update

30 Day Colliery Dam discussion - update

Mayor Ruttan comments on Snuneymuxw First Nation decision to withdraw from process

As residents of Nanaimo are now aware, the Snuneymuxw First Nation has announced its decision to withdraw from the 30 Day Colliery Dam discussion.  This decision is a disappointing development; something that neither staff nor myself were expecting. 

Since Council’s motion for a 30 day break was tabled July 8th, I, along with City staff, have worked closely with the appointed facilitator, Katherine Gordon, to provide the Snuneymuxw First Nation with information pertaining to the Colliery Dams.  The transfer of material – including reports and studies – is consistent with past efforts to share information with the Snuneymuxw First Nation dating back to November 2012.

While the City of Nanaimo remains open to further consultation on the options before proceeding with new dams, the studies and reports provided to the City over the last year are very clear; the Upper and Lower Colliery Dams represent a significant risk to public safety.  Similarly, the Province of British Columbia has been equally clear in telling the City that it must take action to mitigate this risk. 

With risk comes liability. Should the City take no immediate action, a failure of the Colliery Dams will have a significant impact on the taxpayers of Nanaimo.  The Snuneymuxw First Nation have stated in a news release issued July 17 that they had received legal advice claiming the City’s concerns surrounding liability are unfounded.  The City of Nanaimo disputes this suggestion – the liability associated with the dams, combined with the identified risk to public safety, requires action be taken. 

As has been discussed throughout the community, action may take several forms.  Reports and studies discussing the rehabilitation of existing dam structures have identified this option as being the most expensive of the three options available, i.e.) removal, replacement or rehabilitation.  Similarly, a recently completed study indicates that reducing the identified risk by simply lowering water levels is cost prohibitive at $8 million dollars, per eight month rain season.

It will now be a Council decision as to how the City will proceed at this point.


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