The Nanaimo-Ladysmith School District is requesting that the province step into the controversy over the Colliery Dams. In a letter to the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources Operations, Steve Thomson, the school board said that "in light of the risk of failure of the dams, we ask you to require the city to take immediate action to address the risks to life and property posed by the unsafe dams."
The letter, endorsed by all nine trustees, said that should the city fail to take immediate action to address the "extreme risks to damage and loss of life," the board requests that the province's water controller or regional water manager take "immediate steps" to address the risks posed by the dams and to recover any and all related costs from the city, as stipulated by the Water Act.
The letter states that the district's concerns are "particularly grave" due to the location of John Barsby Secondary School, which is located directly downstream from the dams.
"A dam failure would create severe damage to the school and the loss of life would likely be extensive," the letter said.
The removal of the dams have been a contentious issue since October, when council voted at an in-camera session to remove the structures, which have been cited as a public safety risk by both city and provincial officials.
The decision resulted in strong protest from park users and residents, which prompted council to shift its stance on the issue and the window of opportunity to remove the dams this year has passed.
The city is now in discussions with Snuneymuxw First Nation to reach a joint decision on how to proceed with the dams.
School board chairman Jamie Brennan is the husband of Dianne Brennan, one of the Nanaimo city councillors who supported the immediate demolition of the dams.
But he denied that it had anything to do with the board's decision.
"The decision of the board on this issue was unanimous," he said. "As a board, we're very concerned about the safety of our students and staff."
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