Saturday, July 18, 2015

Colliery Dams - What is happening??

Is Democracy in Nanaimo being pissed all over?
And millions of tax dollars about to be pissed away?

Last November Nanaimo voters spoke loud and clear about what they felt of the last city council. One of the major issues is what has become known as the Colliery Dams Debacle.

During the election campaign, six of the candidates running for council promised the electorate that they did not have faith in the process that has led to the Colliery Dams options and suggested, if they were elected, they would do something about it.

That was before the election when all six candidates who were successful said they opposed the Colliery Dams options, those included Bill McKay, Bill Bestwick, Bill Yaochim, Jim Kipp, Gord Fuller and Jerry Hong.

Since the election Bill McKay seems to have done a 180 degree turn from his stance that 'the dams are just fine', without citing any compelling reasons for his change of stance. 

That said, there have been five elected councilors (a majority of this council) who have been trying to fulfill their promise to those who elected them to do further due diligence on the process which has led us to the present juncture with the Province. It would seem that any attempt they have made to fulfill this promise has been thwarted by city hall staff and Mayor McKay. The first such example was the non compliance of the Feb.2 resolution of Council put by Councillor Yoachim. A second effort by Councillor Fuller in early March met with the same fate. 

As a Nanaimo taxpayer who has no ties to Colliery Dams Park I still have serious questions as to why these two little puddles have gained so much attention, at one time being called the most dangerous dams in the province. Really?? That distinction came about as result of the flawed process claiming 150 deaths after a three minute failure of both dams, occurring during Noah's flood. We now know that the assessment as to the construction of the dam was not based on any real investigation.

We now seem to be applying the same level of urgency to the consequence of a sudden failure triggered by a seismic event, to the totally predictable albeit unlikely result of a 1:34,000 year flooding event. After reading the EAB's stay application denial, it would seem that this point was not made clear to them as there is reference to acute safety hazards and the need for immediate remediation. Really? How did they come to that conclusion?

A problem with the stay and appeal applications

You don't have to be a rocket scientist to understand there is little appetite on the part of the city to not get this file off of everyone's desk so we can move on to other pressing city business.

By asking city staff to mount a stay and appeal application, we have been asking city staff and the engineers we have paid handsomely to say that their work should be subject to further review. Isn't that a serious conflict to ask the same people responsible for generating the work to say the process which gave us these results has some flaws?

How vigorous and robust the appeal prepared by the city's very capable lawyer would depend on the information given him by city staff, which again would seen to be in conflict. I presume the city lawyer is very capable and competent at arguing law, but would not expect him to be able to critique the process which has led us to this point.

As an informed and engaged taxpayer, I take no comfort in the spending of millions of tax dollars based on the process that brought us this far. 

What the electorate authorized

When the electorate elected this city council we expected they would seriously examine the whole Colliery Dams process to determine we are really making the best use of millions of tax dollars. They have attempted to do that and at this point have been hampered in that attempt.

Remember we spend a million or so on a city staff-led study which concluded 150 people could die when the dams failed in a few minutes. Proper investigation disproved that conclusion and saved millions.

The second city staff-led process has spent about $1.5 million and has reached another conclusion which arguably is the result of another incomplete and flawed process. Why so much confidence in the same process that produced the first results?

If the electorate sits idly by and watches their wishes being pissed all over, then we are doing our part in making a mockery of the whole process.

I am personally of the opinion we have not demonstrated the need to do anything with the existing dams, in spite of all the 'players' trying to find a politically palatable solution that will result in tax dollars potentially simply being wasted.

I realize that my unqualified opinion and $5 will get me a latte at Starbux.



  1. Charlotte Bridden19 July 2015 at 10:09

    Thank you Jim for putting order in this long drawn out contentious issue. I hope all the residents of Nanaimo read this. CB

  2. The dog fight is over , stop harping about faulty information. Old news. We ar e on to the spillway fix. If council keeps listening to the same 5-6 people without calling a halt to thier presentaions, which is just rehasing the same old , old infor. Anything new, speak up, rehash the old stuff, shut the front door!!!| We should understand that the leader of the protest will not stop until "nothing" is done at the site. After he and other peruse and accept the teck part of the fix, first then will be an extended EPA assessment. If and when that fails there will in all likelyhood be a First Nations claim for a ceremonial cemetary grounds on the sight. Let staff and council come up with a plan and lets get on with it, They are over one hundred years old and it seems that very little remedial work has ever been completed.
    This entire debacle has become personal to those involved, to the point where councilor(s) are prepared to break the law, not for the taxpayer benifit but to support thier own agenda.

  3. Thank you Jim for your sober analysis of the situation. Council is faced with a dilema. Stand by your promises, which got you elected, or cave in to doubtful orders from the Provincial government. Orders based on incomplete information. Your critique of the city management (staff) is valid. The City Manager and his sidekick have their necks out a mile on this one. Investigation may prove that they did not, in due diligence, do their jobs. I would hope that a subsequent investigation does take place and if it is proven that these individuals acted in defiance of the wishes of council.......they should be fired. Immediately. There are millions of taxpayer's dollars at risk here as well as setting a terrible precedent. Council must stick by their guns and demand more time to get the complete details. It is only logical to have all the information necessary prior to voting to spend millions and millions of dollars. I would hope that Councillor Pratt, in particular, would recognize that. Spending 5 or 8 million dollars because the City Manager says a dereliction of office. Read the reports and then decide for yourself..........if you can.


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