In the rush to remove the Middle and Lower Colliery Dams in Nanaimo, essential issues have been overlooked or ignored. This blog post will focus on three points:
1) Reports from the BC government’s Rapid Dam Assessment
2) Cost estimates
3) Development of the Harwood Flood Plains
Dam Safety is a provincial responsibility. The Middle and Lower Colliery Dams on Chase River are regularly audited by the Ministry of Environment. Staff from the Ministry of Environment conducted a review of the Provincial Dam Safety Program and initiated a Rapid Dam Assessment (RDA) for dams in the province in 2010.
In the Summary of Project Review and Construction for Dams in BC compiled in May 2011 by the Ministry of Environment, there was no mention in the report that the Colliery Dams were in poor condition or required removal or rehabilitation.
Original design and construction documentation is lacking for the Middle and Lower Colliery Dams; however, up-to-date reservoir bathymetry and site survey drawings are available. These dams were constructed around 1910.
The Ministry’s next review of the dams was to be in 2014 with no recommendation for removal.
In July 2012 a consultant prepared a report “Chase River Dam Breach Flood Inundation Study” and its conclusions and recommendations stated that there was an “unacceptable deficiency” in both the Middle and Lower Colliery Dams and the probability of an “extreme failure” would be very high.
September 20-21, 2012: a “Table Top” exercise was conducted with City of Nanaimo, Ministry officials, and various personnel and emergency management staff. Participants discussed the actions they would take during an emergency situation if a breach of the dams were to occur.
Where are the results of this Table Top exercise and what input data was used?
In a letter dated October 17, 2012 to the City of Nanaimo, the Water Management Branch, Dam Safety (Ministry of Forests, Lands & Natural Resource Operations) acknowledged receipt of the private report paid for by the City of Nanaimo. The Ministry asked whether the City of Nanaimo is planning to upgrade, replace or remove the Middle and Lower Colliery Dams by November 30, 2012.
October 22, 2012: Council holds in-camera meeting to advise staff to proceed with removal of the Middle and Lower Colliery Dams
October 23, 2012: City sends results of October 22nd meeting to Ministry of Forests, Lands & Natural Resource Operations
October 29, 2012: Council passes resolution to remove dams at in-camera meeting. (Council can make motions, however, they cannot pass resolutions at in-camera meetings according to the Community Charter). This information was made public at a press conference the same day.
November 26, 2012: Committee of the Whole Meeting, City Manager states at 1:41:50 “we regularly give out in-camera information, that’s how council does business.”
November 26, 2012: Committee of the Whole Meeting (COW), Manager Bill Sims at 1:46:20 “the budget for removal of the dams is $7 million. We don’t know what the costs are, it’s just preliminary thoughts. We figure it would be in the low “tens of millions.”
Why has this project been rushed forward without requests for proposals (RFP) or calls for tenders?
Construction on Harewood Flood Plains
Why did the city approve new construction in the Harewood Flood Plains after the 2010 seismic report was received? This question was put to staff and council at the COW meeting and no answer was given.
**November 26, 2012 was the last Committee of the Whole meeting to be recorded on video. The new meeting room in the $16 million City Hall Annex Building does not currently have audio or video equipment installed.