Colliery Dams – studies on dam failure

What’s happening with the Colliery Dams? Do the dams need to be repaired or not? Two areas of concern have been identified for the Colliery Dams:

  • Would the dams survive an earthquake
  • Would the dams survive a flood

It has been determined that the Colliery Dams will not fail in a seismic event. The dams are in much better condition than previously thought.

Now the concern is what would happen if there was a flood.  At the September 15th Committee of the Whole meeting Councillor Kipp raised some interesting points:

  • Dam Inspection report: January 21, 2012 = no risks.
  • Dam Inspection report: August 12, 2012 = problem.
  • City spent $1 million between 2012-13 to study problems.
  • City spent $2.47 million to conduct studies related to a seismic event.
  • Now city would like to spend approximately $400,000 on a Hydraulic study

This would mean that the cost of the safety studies on Colliery Dams will total approximately $4 million dollars.

At the September 15th meeting it was decided to hold off on approving the Hydraulic study until a number of concerns could be addressed and included.

It the Hydraulic study goes ahead it would determine the rate of erosion in a flood situation and what would happen if the lower dam overtopped. This study would answer questions such as: how would the embankment hold up? Would the core concrete wall inside fail? Where would the water go?

Colliery Dam embankment
Colliery Dam embankment – would this area fail if water went over it?

A scale model would be built of the Colliery dams to see how the embankment behind the dams would hold up. Then an overtopping event would be conducted to see what would happen.

Colliery Dam Spillway
Colliery Dam Spillway – would the water go over the sides?

The scale model would cost about $100,000 to build. From that model engineers would find out how best to armour the dam for a failure event. The explanation as to why the scale model is so expensive is because in doing the tests the scale model will get destroyed and they would have to rebuild the model again.

The Colliery Dam Technical Committee disbanded at the end of August 2014 and by September 8th they decided upon a Hydraulic Study which could lead to options of either overtopping repairs or expanding the spillway size or leaving the dams as they are.

Many people spoke at the September 15th Committee of the Whole meeting and had several questions that remain unanswered such as:

  • What about the back fill?
  •  What would happen to the fish?
  • Why can’t the water level be lowered prior to the wet season?
  • Why was a drain pipe filled with concrete?
  • Why was there no updated drilling done on the bank?
  • Why has no soil profile been taken so far?
  • Why was only a sonic sample taken?
  • How can we make a model of the dam if we haven’t done soil samples?
  • Have there been any water/drainage flow studies done of the area?
  • Have there been any rainfall studies done?

One speaker commented on the concrete core shown in green in the drawing below:

“…it shows that the concrete core is narrow from top to bottom…they are built tapered, thicker at the bottom, we paid $500,000 for a study…they drilled two holes 30 feet from the concrete straight down…if they drilled the hole 10 feet away from the wall then they might have discovered the footing of the dam and found that the dam core is tapered… no dam in the world looks like this…it’s just wrong.”

Take a look at the diagram below:

Colliery Dams Hydraulic study
Flood event: what would happen? Green represents concrete core which speaker noted is the wrong shape

The city was going to hold a public open house in September but it was cancelled.

Repairing the dams will mean another multi-million project. Are these dam repairs really necessary? Is this overreaction? Ironically, if these dams were still in the hands of a coal mine operator, it would be doubtful if the same scrutiny would be applied.

Colliery Dam repair options
Colliery Dam repair options – either $3+million or $8.2 million to repair

Note that Option 1 for a Hydraulic Study has increased to $400,000 to cover model building.

Why hasn’t the City given the same attention to the miles of coal tunnels under the City of Nanaimo and Protection Island? When Duke Point was being blasted in the early 80’s, many homeowners complained of sinkholes on their property. It was proven by the engineer that the root cause of the sinkholes was the old coal tunnels. What about the new five star hotel slated to be built next to the Number One coal shaft? Who would be liable if there was a failure?

The Colliery Dams were completed on May 1, 1911. The dams have stood for 103 years. They withstood a 7.3 earthquake that shook Nanaimo and Vancouver Island on June 23, 1946.

Why can’t the City just let the dams be? A simple drain would most likely solve the problem. It’s as if the taxpayers are being held hostage on this project.

Nanaimo Civic Election 2014 Hot Issues

The Nanaimo Civic Election will be held on November 15th and everyone will have an opportunity to vote for the next mayor and council who will sit for the next four years.

So why should you vote? Here are some topics of interest:

Many people are under the impression that the WTE incinerator will not happen. The reality is that the incinerator location issue is too hot of a topic to have around election time so it has been shelved until after the municipal elections are over.

Metro Vancouver’s plan to build a new $517-million WTE incinerator will probably resurface and when it does where will they build it? Metro has mentioned that it has committed to stop using the Cache Creek landfill.  What are the alternatives, burn the garbage or bury the trash in other landfills? Will the new package and paper recycling system overseen by Multi-Material B.C. (MMBC) be effective in diverting waste?

Just recently the provincial government rejected Metro Vancouver’s Bylaw 280, which sought to ban garbage shipments out of the region. There are two opposing camps; those who want to recycle and landfill and those who want to burn garbage.  The question is who will win out in the end?

The incinerator folks have lots of clout and this is a great time to stack the incoming mayor and councils in areas that are of interest to them. We know that Duke Point was one of the sites chosen for the proposed incinerator so could we see a slate of pro-incinerator politicos installed?

There are 10 people running for mayor of Nanaimo. Here’s a quick look at where they appear to stand on this issue: N = opposed to WTE incinerator Y = support WTE with zero waste system

Bruni Bruni: N
Kendal Justus Csak: ?
Bill Holdom: N
Gary Korpan: ?
Alisha Neumann-Ladret: N
Bill Mckay: Y
Roger McKinnon: ?
Jim Routledge : Y
John Ruttan: N
Al Thompson: ?

There are 26 candidates running for council. If the past serves as any reference then there are only three new council seats up for grabs.

As far as Georgia Park goes, will the park get leased out to the new Hilton Hotel? It’s your waterfront park and an important public asset.  Who stands to gain?

Other hot topics here in Nanaimo that people might want to think about include:

Check out Nanaimo Election page — they have a complete list of all the candidates and their contact information so you can ask candidates any questions.

Check out some forums by Progressive Nanaimo. There will be a New Candidates Forum this Wednesday, Oct 22nd at 6:30 pm at the Beban Park Social Centre. If you missed their first two forums you can watch the candidates on youtube. Round One and Round two.

The best thing this current council has done is videotaped all the council meetings and committee of the whole meetings and put them on the City website. They are archived and before the recent blackout because of the election they were live streamed. Make sure you check out some of these videos. It is the best value for your tax money!

Blacked out council meetings

It was announced at Monday’s committee of the whole meeting that ALL future meetings of Nanaimo council (from October 15th onwards) will be blacked out until after the November 15, 2014 civic elections.

Victoria is allowing council meetings to be live streamed and recorded, why not Nanaimo?

Blacked out council Meetings and Committee of the Whole meeting

  • October 20 – council meeting
  • October 27 – council meeting
  • November 3 – committee of the whole
  • November 10 – council meeting

It is critical the public finds out what is going on. We are not sure why they have called for the blackout on these meetings (an election is coming) but there must be something really hot we are about to miss.

Remember, everyone is affected all over the city. Here is a short list of previous issues this council has debated:

  • Downtown: Harbour (was up for sale)
  • South Nanaimo: Collery Dams (park fiasco)
  • Central Nanaimo: Linley Valley  (wetlands destruction)
  • North Nanaimo: Pioneer Park (was up for sale)

That’s the short list for now. Stay informed. The City will not put Georgia Park on the November 15th ballot. What else is going to happen during the blackout?

BC Ferries needs a Queue System not Signs

At the last council meeting BC Ferries put forward a motion to have three LED signs installed at the Departure Bay terminal for a cost of approximately $300,000. BC Ferries also plans to install similar signs at the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal. That would be a total cost of at least $600,000. The purpose of these signs would be to generate revenue from ads and to tell drivers to shut off their engines, etc.

Unhappy neighbours

The residents in the area gave presentations to council outlining several concerns regarding the proposed installation of these LED signs.  The signs are 9 meters tall and 20 square meters in area. There would be significant light pollution for the neighbours.

BC Ferries only held public open houses on weekdays before and directly after Labour Day.  The neighbouring residents presented a petition against the proposed signs to which Councillor Greves commented, “I don’t think much of petitions, there is even someone who signed this from Ontario.”

In the end, all the councillors opposed the three signs and their size except for Councillor Anderson who stepped out when it came time to vote.

Unsatisfied customers

In July about 100 vehicles meant to be loaded onto the 3:10 p.m. sailing from Departure Bay to Horseshoe Bay were held back while terminal staff gave the green light to vehicles that had arrived later. Some passengers had to wait over five hours. Although BC Ferries issued a refund for the loading error, many passengers were still unhappy. What is the average wait time for people in a ferry line up in the busy summer months?

After this experience, what are the chances these tourists will want to return?

Queue System

At the same council meeting Councillor Bestwick asked the BC Ferries representative: “How many walk-ons are there?  How many people are first time ferry users?”  The BC Ferries rep did not have these stats available. Do they know?

Ferry rates have increased as much as 75% and there has been a decrease in service routes. BC Ferries should be restoring service levels.

BC Ferries needs a queue system to manage lineups, rather than the current reservation system which creates a ‘have’ and ‘have not’ line up. It’s not effective and it’s costly to operate.

In other countries they are using queue systems that are effective and do not require people to line up. BC Ferries needs to think outside the box. Ferry line ups can be eliminated.

What if there were self-serve kiosks set up around Nanaimo or Parksville and tourists could print their own transportation tickets, baggage tags, and then, just like an online order, a person could stay informed through a mobile app when to arrive at the ferry? Just think what an economic boon it would be for Nanaimo. Instead of people waiting in a car for five hours, people could be spending more time in town shopping or eating at restaurants.

BC Ferries could also implement a system where people could order their food in advance without lining up at the cafeteria. People could present a receipt and their food order would be ready.

We live in a modern world; it’s time for some creative thinking.

Budget 2015: Nanaimo RCMP contract

Monday, September 29th is the upcoming eTown Hall meeting where you can ask questions regarding the City of Nanaimo’s budget. The Nanaimo RCMP contract is the second largest budget item.

Policing costs account for 17% of tax dollars collected in Nanaimo. In 2007, there was a 6.7% increase in funding to the Nanaimo RCMP. Currently the City of Nanaimo provides the Nanaimo RCMP with $19 million and that is slated to increase to $20 million per year. In addition, the Nanaimo RCMP has asked for $6.6 million to help upgrade and renovate their police station.

Public Communication
What is the point of using social media when there is only partial information given out. An example below shows a tweet from September 3rd describing the perpetrator of a serious assault incident that occurred on August 17th.

Tweet re August 17, 2014 assault
Tweet re August 17, 2014 assault

How is this information adequate for the public to be of any help? For this same incident, a Crime Stoppers re-enactment video was later made with the Nanaimo RCMP spokesman narrating. This gives the impression that Nanaimo Crime Stoppers is a division of the Nanaimo RCMP which it is not. There should a disclaimer somewhere so that people are not mislead.

Why has the RCMP come to rely so heavily on Crime Stoppers and other volunteer organizations?

Outsourcing Police Work
Before 1950, British Columbia had its own provincial police force with very few detectives. They contracted most detective work to American companies.  When the RCMP took over the responsibility for policing the province, the BC Provincial Police’s “E” Division was absorbed into the fold.

Here we are in 2014 and there are many volunteer organizations at the RCMP’s disposal. These include auxiliary officers, C.O.P.S. (Citizens on Patrol), Speedwatch, Blockwatch and a few others. The biggest group amongst these is the U.S. based Crime Stoppers.

Crime Stoppers – Who runs it?
Crime Stoppers started in the mid-1970s in the United States as a grassroots organization with the idea of helping small-town police forces that had few resources at their disposal. The U.S., unlike Canada, has had a long history of vigilantism and DIY justice – posse groups hunted down alleged wrongdoers (including runaway slaves) and lynched them.

The idea is that an ‘informer’ contact Crime Stoppers with information about criminal activity.  The person who passes along information is protected by the rule of informer privilege so if the case goes to court, the tipster will (hopefully) remain anonymous. According to the Supreme Court of Canada, the identity of the informer is supposed to be unknown to everyone including the Crime Stoppers’ agent who receives the call.

On the Nanaimo Crime Stoppers website, it states “A Tipster’s ‘Anonymity’ is protected by law, in a Supreme Court of Canada decision known as R. v. Leipert.”

Despite this rule, Crime Stoppers exercises its own judgement when passing along the information it receives. In the case of Richard Leipert, the Greater Vancouver Crime Stoppers Association provided the entire tip sheet to the trial judge who viewed the document and then redacted certain information before passing it along. Last May, it came to light that a similar situation arose in Miami, where it was revealed that the Crime Stoppers there emailed the tipster’s information to the prosecutor.

When a detail as innocuous as the time of the telephone call may be sufficient to permit identification, it doesn’t make sense why all that information was being recorded by Crime Stoppers in the first place.

Police Work or Public Relations?
Why would the RCMP have a member working at a store opening? Could the store not hire its own security for the event? Is this the best use of our taxpayer dollars?

RCMP constable at Cabela's store opening
RCMP at Cabela’s store opening

Vigilantes on Vancouver Island
When the police keep promoting volunteers as crime fighters, it’s no wonder that some people have been motivated to solve crimes or investigate them as they see fit.


Will Vancouver Island go the way of Montreal where the Mafia had its own helpline? On March 14, 2014, the Charbonneau Commission heard the following recorded conversation between Terry Pomerantz and Mafia boss Vito Rizzuto. Pomerantz phoned him after he realized his brand new Cadillac Escalade was stolen. Apparently, Rizzuto had the vehicle recovered and brought back to Pomerantz the next day.

Inverted Pyramids Topple
Why does it appear like the RCMP has few resources to do the actual ‘work’- are all of the funds going to support the top ranks?

We are starting to see the introduction of private prisons in BC for the first time. How long will it before Harper makes the RCMP obsolete? It will be a sad day when the RCMP is gone from small towns. It was a great idea to have a cohesive unit working to solve crimes across the country.  With only so many tax dollars to go around, isn’t it just a matter of time before a private company is going to move in?

Nanaimo tax increases & budget: town hall meeting


This Monday, September 29, 2014 there will be an hour long eTown Hall meeting starting at 7:00 pm where the public can ask questions about the City of Nanaimo’s budget.

Here is a look at Nanaimo’s tax increases. According to the City’s finance manager the 6.1% increase in taxes for 2017 is for the $80 million dollar water treatment plant and the 6.5% increase in 2007 was for extra staff at the RCMP. The $100 million conference centre costs have been spread out.

Nanaimo Tax Increases
Nanaimo Tax Increases from 2005 to 2018

What is our biggest expense? You can see that wages and benefits are the largest portion of the pie chart below, at 47%. The second largest expense is the RCMP contract at 17% of the total operating expenses. The policing contract costs Nanaimo taxpayers just over $19 million per year and will increase to $20 million next year.  Since 2008 it works out to an increase of almost $7 million.

City of Nanaimo Expenditures 2014
City of Nanaimo Expenditures 2014

Service supply contracts account for the third largest City expenditure.  One of the problems is that the City has sole source contracts.  Without allowing other companies to bid, taxpayers are not getting the best deal and this leads to inflated project costs.

Taxes are projected to increase every year over the next five years ranging from 1% to 5% for asset management of roads, sewer, and water.

Operating Costs for Nanaimo
Operating Costs for Nanaimo

You can see that the debt has increased significantly since the City took on building the convention centre. This space unfortunately has been underused with empty retail spaces. The City built a new administration building in 2011-2012 at a cost of about $18 million.

Debt per Capita in Nanaimo
Debt per Capita in Nanaimo

Below are some projects scheduled for the next 5 years. You will notice that the Colliery Dams project is not listed. If it goes ahead this will be another multi-million dollar project, and to date taxpayers have spent $2.4 million in consultant fees.

Nanaimo Projects 2014
Nanaimo Projects 2014

Other items that are not included in the financial plan are the Port Theatre expansion, waterfront development, property acquisition, recreation or heritage planning.

One problem is that there has been no accounting of the total cost of ‘aiding’ developers. Two new hotels in downtown Nanaimo will receive 20 years tax free.  Nanaimo City Hall bloggers have estimated that the new Hilton Hotel will cost taxpayers over $21 million dollars. What about the other hotel next to the conference centre?

In other instances, developers wanted fines waived, or free pedestrian crosswalks like the one on Terminal, or sidewalks in industrial areas or water and sewer hook-ups like those in Linley Valley and Upper Lantzville.

On a side note, Councillor McKay asked council for $10,000 for the upcoming Zero Waste Conference. There were no grant applications filled out, and no request for public funding was made by the organizers. But council approved the request anyway.  Even Councillor Greves joked “are we writing a cheque to McKay?” Yet at the same time other non-profits had filled out applications for small amounts of money and were turned down. Very strange.

People complain we don’t have money to purchase parks or support the arts but if we look at the generous handouts that select groups and individuals are getting, it is not an even playing field.

The City of Nanaimo has an annual operating budget of $160 million. The target is to present the 2015-2019 financial plan to the new council in December 2014. Go ahead and ask your financial questions on Monday, September 29, 2014. Call 250-754-4251 or tweet @cityofnanaimo, facebook cityofnanaimo, and get some answers.