Tag Archives: nanaimo

Colliery Dams: Political Theatre in Nanaimo

Colliery Dams was on the agenda for the Monday July 20th Nanaimo council meeting. There were 4 delegations who came to speak.

Councillor Yoachim raised his motion for the dams which was legally drafted and all encompassing. Here are the highlights of the motion:

  • select the Lower Dam remediation option: Auxiliary Spillway (Labyrinth/Box Culvert, Open Channel  alternative)
  • prepare a design report and construction plan for the Auxiliary Spillway on or before July 24, 2015
  • prepare a conceptual plan for the Middle Colliery Dam for potential use once the Lower Dam remediation is complete
  • develop Terms of Reference for a tendering process for the Auxiliary spillway to be awarded by September 1, 2015
  • re-establish the Technical Committee as a Select Committee
  • have an independent investigation and report on the Colliery Dam process from start to finish
  • send a letter to the Provincial government outlining concerns with the process
  • stop all legal proceedings before the Environmental Appeal Board

Four people spoke about their concerns about all of the unanswered questions around Colliery Dams. MLA Routley spoke about his concerns that the Colliery Dams debacle was dividing council and the community and further work could be done with the province.

Councillor Brennan started off by saying she didn’t know how to properly address Routley. Next she told him he had incorrect facts. Brennan claimed that the Colliery Dams remediation cost was not originally estimated at $30 million. Was she saying that the Nanaimo Daily News got their facts wrong as well? Then Brennan invited Routley to have a meeting with herself and a city staff member at which time the “facts could be clarified.” MLA Routley  acknowledged a difference in opinion.

No other councillors nor the Mayor had any questions or comments. Councillors Yoachim and Bestwick thanked MLA Routley for his time coming to the meeting.

Councillor Brennan made a motion to have a 15 minute break so all councillors could look at Yoachim’s motion, as it was the first time they were seeing this “very long motion full of legal speak.”

After the break, the meeting resumed. Councillor Yoachim exited the meeting several times as did other councillors and staff. Apparently, they were ironing out the details of the motion.

A dysfunctional council no more?

The Nanaimo Mayor hired The Integrity Group run by Vancouver lawyer Heather MacKenzie for $50,000 to help council get along.  According to the News Bulletin, the Mayor commented that the division and behaviour is much worse than most councils, morale is at an “all time low” at City Hall and the “business of the city is not getting done.”

Ever since the election last year, the Nanaimo Council was in a stalemate position about the Colliery Dams. Five councillors would not agree with the other three and the mayor on what to do.

The threat was that if council didn’t fix the dams Nanaimo would be fined a $1 million a day by the province.

Previously, the five councillors had complained that the Mayor and three councillors were not interested in going to talk to the provincial government. The five councillors spoke of the whole process as being a complete sham.

Why didn’t  the entire council meet with the provincial government and ask for financial help? Only the five councillors met with the Deputy Minister who oversees the Dam Safety Section. Mayor McKay would not give his endorsement or participate in the meeting.

Council votes in harmony

At approximately 10:30pm Yoachim’s motion was raised again and it passed unanimously. All eight councillors and the mayor voted in favour of building the auxiliary spillway for approximately $5 million.

It was interesting to observe how happy Nanaimo Council was at the end of the meeting. It was as if everyone had won the lottery.  Councillor Bestwick, who was attending via phone link, commented “I don’t want to hold up the party” when he voted yes along with everyone else.

At question period a regular council watcher, who at previous meetings repeated a request to investigate the drain plugged with concrete, was laughing and joking with the Mayor.

What changed?

BC Government Exaction

If the province is insisting that the dams be fixed then why will they not help out the taxpayers of Nanaimo?

Councillor Brennan commented we own it so we fix it. If that is the case why were there no efforts to maintain Colliery Dams in the first place? Why such a waste of taxpayers money? Is someone looking for a lucrative contract?


This sounds like the last council when they said “sorry there is nothing we can do” we have to sell Nanaimo’s harbour.

It will be very interesting to see if the “Colliery Dams political theatre” is repeated with the upcoming incinerator planned for Duke Point.

Colliery Dams: many unanswered questions

Colliery Dams was on the agenda at the Monday July 6, 2015 special council meeting. There were seven speakers.

The following is the presentation made by Geraldine Collins to Nanaimo council on Monday night.  She raised many questions that still have not been answered despite millions spent on studies.

We don’t know the following (about the Colliery Dams):

  • Spillway capacity – let us see the numbers
  • Water Distribution – where does the water go?
  • Auxiliary Spillway – without the studies we do not know what we need
  • Can the concrete wall survive the design flood?
  • Is the concrete strong enough?
  • What are the dimensions and geometry of the concrete wall?
  • Will the concrete fracture or erode?

If the concrete wall will not survive:

Do we need more rock to support it?
How much water will flow over the dam in the flood according to the model?
What is the lateral dissipation of the water once the spillway has reached capacity?

We can then then determine what upgrades we need.

Do we support the dam wall?
Do we protect from overtopping?
Do we redirect the water?

What happens to Nanaimo in a hypothetical 34,000 year flood?

Happens over time-days
Evacuation occurs downstream before dams crests
Flood damage throughout Nanaimo has occurred
Possible dam failure damage is incremental to widespread existing flood damage

City maintains that risk remains severe from a 34,000 year flood event
Risk Assessment is ignored
We do not know what will happen; pure speculation

We have spent $3 million and we still do not know:

  • The dimensions of the lower dam
  • Is the concrete strong enough to resist erosion?
  • Will it fail if overtopped?
  • The technical information regarding spillway capacity
  • Spillway measurements over high rainfall season
  • Dam dimensions and make up of concrete and rock buttressing

There is absolutely no urgency:

  • Insufficient data on record to support proposed option
  • Water level has never exceeded half of measuring board
  • Important to maintain realistic surveillance and emergency planning
  • Compile data for best solution

The Dam Safety Section has a history of accepting flawed studies:
“Time to do it right. Defy this order and stand up for what is right.”

There was another presentation by Louise Gilfoy which quoted the Nanaimo Mayor stating:
“While there’s 40 people perhaps that are actively involved in the Colliery Dam issue,
88,000 people live in Nanaimo” (June 29th quote from Nanaimo New Bulletin).

How many people are interested in the Colliery Dams issue? All taxpayers are interested in the Colliery Dams issue. Especially when it was first proposed and was going to cost  $30 million.

Presently, Nanaimo Council is split. Four say we must do as we are told and fix the dams immediately. Five say we must listen to the concerns of the taxpayers and get answers.

Highlights from the council meeting:

Councillor Kipp: “this whole process is so flawed…I am tired of all these threats…we still haven’t done any studies on what will happen downstream…the affidavits to DSS are false (and we know it).

Councillor Bestwick: “…people can sue me, I’ve got nothing in my name anymore…”

Councillor Pratt: “we can’t just do nothing…I agree with Councillor Thorpe…”

Councillor Yoachim: “doing nothing was never stated…” (everyone wants a solution).

Councillor Thorpe: “I know many people think I don’t care but I do…time has run out…I have listened to [the experts]…”

Councillor Brennan: “…they’ve given us a deadline…”

Councillor Fuller: “I will chain myself to a tree…stop laughing at me [to Brennan]…we don’t have any overtopping studies…”

Councillor Yoachim: “can we relax the hazard levels?…” (Golder Engineer replies yes)…

Swabey: “Golder likely doesn’t know what we are talking about…”

Counciller Hong: “how much snow and rain is required to fill the dams…”

Mayor McKay: heavy sigh… [time for new strategies]

Colliery Dams group has a new website.

Many people concerned about Colliery Dams
More than 40 people are concerned about Colliery Dams (photo from presentation to council by Louise Gilfoy)



Feral cats in Nanaimo: Problems and concerns

In August 2014  the Nanaimo SPCA requested the City  consider new cat regulations to address the growing problems of feral cats and free-ranging domestic cats.

At the February 2, 2015 council meeting Staff was told to prepare a report regarding the feasibility of licencing cats and amending the  bylaw to include a mandatory spay/neuter program for cats. In February, the Nanaimo SPCA and the CatNap Society both made presentations to council about the feral cat situation in Nanaimo.

This week , Monday, June 22nd at Council, cat regulations were back on the agenda. The meeting ended at 1:30 am and councillors were showing fatigue.

330 feral cats rescued in 2014 by CatNap Society in Nanaimo
330 feral cats rescued in 2014 by CatNap Society in Nanaimo

Councillor Yoachim recited a short cat poem and recalled his favourite cat, Phyllis.  Councillor Fuller recalled he had 8 cats in his youth and “didn’t know what happened to them”. Councillor Kipp pointed out that Council was giving more credence to a presentation by a member of the public despite the fact that there were experts who had given compelling information.  The member of the public who Kipp was referring to spoke for 10 minutes and answered questions for a further 20 minutes and claimed  that if a spayed and neutered program were to be implemented “a black market for kittens” would occur. Thankfully no biblical scriptures were referenced.

How bad is the feral cat situation in Nanaimo?

According to the CatNap Society, there were 330 rescues of feral cats last year and 95% of those animals had not been spayed or neutered.

The Nanaimo SPCA  said there is no bylaw regarding the maximum number of cats per household. Some cat hoarders in Nanaimo have more than twenty cats and people in the neighbourhood complain about armies of cats crawling the streets, then running feral and breeding more cat colonies.

Abandoned and neglected cats: direct link to family violence

A community with free-roaming feral animals also has other social problems. Does the Nanaimo SPCA go to schools and teach students how to care for pets? Teaching kids how to be a responsible pet owner will also teach them empathy and respect; qualities that will help improve Nanaimo as a whole.

Eleven  communities in BC have bylaws to deal with cats.  Port Alberni has the following cat bylaws:

Regulations for the Keeping of Cats
12. No person shall own, keep, possess or harbour any cat over the age of six months in the City unless:
(a) the cat has been spayed or neutered by a veterinarian, or
(b) a valid and subsisting breeder’s licence for the current licence year has first been obtained for the unspayed or unneutered cat under this Bylaw.
13. The requirement in section 12 does not apply to a cat that is kept in the City for less than one month in a calendar year and which is not allowed or permitted to be at large in the City.
14. The owner of an unspayed or unneutered cat may apply to the City for a breeder’s licence on the prescribed form provided by the City and pay the fee set out in Schedule “A” to this Bylaw, and upon receipt of the application and payment of the prescribed fee, the City shall issue a breeder’s licence to that owner for that cat.
15. Every breeder’s licence issued under this Bylaw shall expire on the 31st day of December in the calendar year in which the licence was issued.
16. Every owner of a cat shall affix, and keep affixed, sufficient identification on the cat by a collar, harness, tattoo, microchip or other suitable device such that a person finding the cat at large in the City can identify and contact the owner.

Incentives to License Pets

The City of Toronto has a Pet Licensing Rewards program which provides exclusive offers and discounts on pet-related products and services to pet owners who license their dogs and cats.

The City of Edmonton outlines the benefits of pet licensing:

Pet Licensing Fees Are Used To
•Provide food, shelter, medical care and enrichment for approximately 6,000 lost pets each year.
•Identify lost pets and return them to owners.
•Support the adoption of unclaimed pets through partner agencies.
•Provide emergency first-aid veterinary care to injured pets.
•Educate the public about responsible pet ownership.
•Help neighbours resolve their pet-related problems.

There are simple bylaws that would limit the number of cats per household. This would allow the Nanaimo SPCA to deal with cat hoarders that prove to be a serious problem in our community.

City staff said the cost of implementing a cat regulation and licencing program would be onerous but lacked specific details and did not look at other communities where a similar program was successful. It appears the notion of spaying or neutering of cats conflicts with their beliefs. Council asked that more reporting be completed.

Birds under threat

A Smithsonian Institute report released in January said that upward of 5 billion birds and 21 billion wild animals overall are killed in the United States each year by feral cats.

Birds such as this American Robin below are under real threat from feral cat populations. Every week people are finding dead birds killed by AWOL domestic cats.

Tell Nanaimo council to seriously listen to feral cat concerns as our native bird species are in peril.  How many birds are killed every week in Nanaimo? Email Mayor and Council and tell them this is an urgent matter to address.

American robin killed by feral cat in Nanaimo


Four Nanaimo Schools considered for closure

Four Nanaimo schools are being considered for possible closure because of shrinking budgets. At the June 10, 2015 SD68 Business Committee meeting, the Board of Education received the Updated Facilities Plan 2015-2021 and ways to save money were identified.

The schools recommended to be closed are:

  • Departure Bay Elementary 3004 Departure Bay Road
  • North Cedar Intermediate 2215 Gould Road
  • Rutherford Elementary 5840 Hammond Bay Road
  • Woodlands Secondary 3135 Mexicana Road

February through March this year, the district completed an engagement process called Your Voice 2015, which was to seek feedback on the 10-Year Enhanced Facilities for Learning Plan and the 2015-16 budget. Those that participated identified school closures and consolidations as a key priority for the district to undertake.

The final decision to close schools will be based on a review of several factors, including: school enrolment data; enrolment trends and projections; maintenance costs, facility conditions and an assessment of whether neighbouring schools can accommodate the students.

This summer, district staff plan to analyze  each school on the list and prepare a report of findings to be delivered to trustees by late August or early September.

The proposed school closures are by no means final according to the SD68 public letter to parents. The public consultation phase begins in the fall sometime.

Four schools could face closure in Nanaimo
Four schools could face closure in Nanaimo

Increased Congestion in Neighbourhoods

How will these school closures affect congestion?  Many parents drive to and from school 4 times a day; making up a significant portion of the traffic on our roadways. The reasons offered by parents for driving their children to school are convenience, safety of neighbourhoods, and the lack of sidewalks.

Closing more schools will only increase traffic congestion along residential roads which were not designed to handle this high volume of traffic.

Infrastructure improvements will cost taxpayers more than the savings of closing these schools.

Has anyone at the school district considered a walking school bus?

Feds waste money

For the same amount of taxpayers’ money expected to be saved with the closure of these four schools, $1.1 million, the federal government spent on posters for the G8 and G20 Summits in 2010.

Imagine if that money could have been passed on to the schools of Nanaimo. Look at the map and see all the schools that have closed in BC.

How will the country prepare for the future?

Save Lantzville Forest : residents rally support

Concerned residents have set up a website called Save Lantzville Forest to let the public know that there are plans to log upper Lantzville.

Here is the information you need to know:

  • Where is it?
  • Why is this of concern?
  • What can you do?

This forest located in Upper Lantzville is located within the Coastal Douglas Fir ecosystem, one of the most endangered ecosystems in British Columbia. The forest contains a fish-bearing stream (Knarston Creek), wetlands and vernal pools. Plus, a number of threatened species live in the forest. Also, residents use the area as it is easily accessible and has a well established trail system.

The area of concern is Woodlot 1475. It is a 244 hectare parcel of public land located in Upper Lantville (see map). It is an “urban forest” given that it is located in a residential area with more than 100,000 people living within 20 km.

Lantzville woodlot
Lantzville Woodlot 1475 to be logged

Why has this public forest been designated as a woodlot? How much will the Ministry of Forests benefit?

It appears to the Save Lantzville Forest group  that the Ministry of Forests has only viewed this area through the lens of “fibre production” – as simply another forest to be logged and hasn’t considered managing this forest for non-timber values such as recreation and biodiversity, despite the fact that it’s one of the few remaining parcels of publicly owned land on this stretch of Vancouver Island.

According to their website (SaveLantzvilleForest.com) annual revenue to the government would total approximately $1,000 for license fees and stumpage.

The overall concern is that over time there will be fewer and fewer opportunities to walk through an intact mature Coastal Douglas Fir forest. Instead, trails will pass mainly through clearcuts and fir plantations, an experience for which there is no shortage of opportunities on Vancouver Island!

Endangered Coastal Doulas Fir
Endangered Coastal Doulas Fir

An independent biologist report has been completed on WL 1475.  The comprehensive report includes important information such as:

Riparian Forest
Wetland habitat
“at-risk” owl species
“at-risk” frogs

Residents hope to convince the Ministry that this land should be saved from logging considering that so many citizens enjoy this land and wish to protect the forest for future generations to enjoy.  They are trying to convince the Minister of Forests that the majority of citizens in this riding don’t want to see this forest treated as a woodlot.

Considering the recent focus by BC government agencies on stewardship of the Coastal Douglas Fir Zone, this site should be considered a high priority for protection and/or special management.

To learn more about the Woodlot 1475 and offer your support, go to the Save Lantzville Forest website.

View from Copley Ridge Forest
View from Copley Ridge Forest above Lantzville *all photography credits to Save Lantzville Forest

The rude Canadian and women in Canada

This Victoria Day long weekend is a good time to reflect on an era when Queen Victoria saw the former colonies unite to become Canada and peace, order, and good government were the catch words of the day.

Women in Canada back in the day faced many obstacles and one by one they  knocked them down. During the Second World War, women were hired to do non-traditional jobs in manufacturing, forestry and other industries.

Have attitudes changed towards women in Canada? Are women being run out of their jobs as times get tougher?

A report on sexual harassment in the Canadian Forces was released at the end of April. An investigation revealed rampant sexual assault in the military. There were approximately 1,780 sexual assaults per year – five per day – in the Canadian Forces. Despite this, Canada’s top military officer refused to promise to enact the main recommendation in the report, namely the creation of a fully independent agency to receive complaints of inappropriate sexual conduct and offer support to victims of assault and harassment.

Then, this past week saw a female reporter confront several men who were harassing her while she was trying to do her job on site. There are those who argue that the FHRITP slurs uttered were a spontaneous action but was this in fact intentionally done to run her out of a job?

Taken as individual actions alarms are not sounded, but when more and more people engage in the same type of negative behaviour society as a whole must wake up!

ps. Will Queen Victoria be invited back to take part in this year’s Heritage Days parade in Nanaimo? Or has she been run out of a job and bridges burned?