As Nanaimo's summer of discontent nears closure and the Colliery dams remain as they were, the entire spectacle continues to raise more questions than answers.
Council's unanimous decision Monday night to implement water level monitoring and sirens to warn of imminent or likely dam failure is a band-aid solution to a problem that the BC Dam Safety Branch wants permanently solved.
This will get the city through this winter, and buys more time to make a final decision.
The price for this manoeuvre could approach $100,000. With the city already saying studies and other dam-related issue costs are around $600,000, this whole ordeal has now cost taxpayers in the neighbourhood of $700,000.
That doesn't include legal fees, which would be substantial, particularly with the city going to court in hopes of obtaining an injunction against people gathering to protest the removal of the dams, which never happened.
Still, with all that money already spent, the dams remain, unmitigated. Whatever decision council finally makes regarding the dams will cost millions more.
What this exercise has demonstrated is the war between city staff and council. Those on council opposed to the removal of the dams have never bought into the dire warnings of impending calamity brought forward by staff. Nor have they felt comfortable with the alleged necessity to have the structures built in order to withstand a 1-in-10,000 year catastrophe.
Snuneymuxw First Nation Chief Doug White entered the fray and brought what opponents had long sought: A lengthy re-evaluation of evidence and options other than removing the 100-plus year old structures. One would think that removing the dams would be in the best interests of SFN, in that the dams are man-made structures controlling waterflow on a river within their traditional territory. Removing the dams is restoring them to their original natural state. One would have thought that White would be in favour of that.
Yet here is Chief White, coming to the rescue of the disenfranchised and the Colliery Dams Preservation Society.
Yet here we are, with all of council voting to sit on the issue over the winter. That includes
the five who originally voted to remove the dams immediately: Mayor John Ruttan, and Coun. Diane Brennan, Ted Greves, George Anderson and Diana Johnstone.
Is the change of heart all about political expediency? If it was critically important to have the dams removed this summer, why is it now okay to live with then as is throughout the winter? The wild card in all of this is the BC Dam Safety Branch, as their message seems to have changed from an urgent, get the dams mitigated immediately, to being willing to live with the decision to get through the winter.
Why isn't the BC Dam Safety Branch pushing the panic button anymore? What the sirens indicate is the city covering its own backside, should something serious happen regarding the dams over the winter, and before they're either taken out, reinforced or another dam is built on-site.
The city has already said that it is insured only to $35 million to cover any dam failure inflicted damage. With the billions of dollars in reparations needed in Alberta due to the floods that afflicted Calgary and other cities, that seems like barely a drop in the bucket should a major calamity strike and the dams fail.
Trying to figure out which direction the city was/is/will/should take has been a tug-of-war of epic proportions.
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