Colliery Dams reservoir place to swim

Fri. Aug. 2/13
2013-07-25T00:00:00

With talks between the City of Nanaimo and Snuneymuxw First Nation back on track, it remains to be seen what will happen at this summer's hot spot, the Colliery dams.

That SFN is back at the table after walking away is a credit to Chief Doug White. Once he realized that city staff was reportedly strongly suggesting to other staff, and even the moderator, that they might be legally liable if they voted against their recommendations, he really had to back out.

White is to be commended for re-entering consultations once that type of inflammatory rhetoric was removed from the conversation, which now can allow clear, pressure-free discussion of all issues.

Now that other objective, outside eyes - including impartial experts and/or consultants - are able to peer in and analyze the facts of the case, it will ensure council should be able to make a final untainted decision.

That's a big part of the reason we're still mulling over the dam issue eight months after council voted to decommission it. When council finally agreed to White's request for a sober second look earlier this month, there was a collective sigh of relief.

The reopened 30-day consultation period will have to determine, once and for all, whether or not the fear-flavoured recommendations of staff are to be followed, or there really is another avenue to pursue the matter, as many citizens have asked for.

Finally, there really is going to be open consultation on the possible removal of an iconic civic asset. Now what? There are basically three options:

1. Upgrade the dams and keep them.

2. Remove the dams and rebuild new dams.

3. Remove the dams and re-naturalize Colliery dam park.

Now that calmer heads can prevail and excessive estimates of non-staff favoured options are re-calculated, it will be interesting to see what the majority of council votes. It will be one of those three, with several suboptions for each in terms of costs and timing.

Some experts have expressed opinions that upgrading the dams aren't expected to cost

nearly what was originally estimated, at somewhere between $35-43 million. How much less remains to be seen, although it should still be more than simply taking out the dams.

Removing the dams and rebuilding new ones is an expensive proposition that doesn't make much sense, fiscally or otherwise. That would mean spending millions on newer versions of the old swimming holes, originally built to wash coal.

If that's the goal, it would be much more economical to build another pool in another location. The hydro-electric dam idea opens another can of worms and revenue generating forecasts would be bleak.

Removing the dams and renaturalizing the park is the least palatable, as some believe

if the dams are removed, they shouldn't, or won't, be rebuilt.

If that last option is chosen, what the city could do, rather than build another swimming pool, is open the concrete-lined reservoir alongside Nanaimo Lakes Road that is going to be decommissioned, and make that a place for swimming.

It would be smaller than Westwood Lake, which also has a portion of it with a concrete bank, and it's already built. That may be the most economical option available, and perhaps, maybe even slightly, put some salve in the wounds of those who would feel the dams' loss the most.

It's food for thought.

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