Saturday, August 31, 2013

Jeff Solomon's Letter in Response to
School District Chair's Letter
To Forestry Minister Thomson

Mr. Jamie Brennan
Chair, School District 68

I am in receipt of the letter that was forwarded to the Honourable Steve Thomson, Nanaimo City Staff, School Board personnel and the Dam Safety Branch. In it you have expressed a concern with regard to the Colliery Dams and the decision made by the City on August 07, 2013 to cancel the tender for their removal. As our group of concerned citizens was specifically mentioned in this motion, I thought it prudent to offer some feedback. 
The motion was passed unanimously by Nanaimo City Council with the expectation that a short term risk mitigation plan be brought to council at the first available opportunity (Sept 09, 2013). It was further moved and seconded that Council continue to engage the Snuneymuxw First Nation, the Colliery Dam Preservation Society, and the public and return at the first opportunity to Council to adopt a new strategy to deal with the long term mitigation of risks associated with the dams. This motion was also carried unanimously. Finally, Council also directed Staff to provide a recommended process that outline the key steps and estimated completion dates of each step that will focus the organization on diligently addressing the life safety and property concerns that have been made known to City of Nanaimo Council and the community. This recommendation should take into consideration the commitments of City Council to thoroughly engage Snuneymuxw First Nation and the community at large as identified in the 30 day process that has recently been completed. The motion carried unanimously.
It is acknowledged that the dams will require some upgrading to current standards. However, all safety inspections indicate that they are currently both fundamentally sound and stable and that the lower dam is already able to withstand a major seismic event. There was significant work done on both dams in 1980 so as to ensure that they would not pose a risk to people and property downstream. Your statement that the dams may be vulnerable to an earthquake can be a general assumption for most every building in Nanaimo including our schools. Please keep in mind that John Barsby High School has existed for 60 years and was built in a floodplain. This floodplain will exist with or without the Colliery Dams which were erected in 1910. 
A great deal of time and effort has been dedicated to addressing this complicated issue. City staff have been working diligently on a short term mitigation strategy that is acceptable to Snuneymuxw and the Colliery Dam Preservation Society while ensuring that appropriate measures are being taken to address public safety. I am confident that the direction from council is being carefully considered and that appropriate planning will occur. Your statements that you do not care about the dams and that you want them removed are not considered as being appropriate as there are many factors to be considered including the watershed, eco-system, fishery, and the expressed desire of the community to maintain the park in its existing state with the lakes intact. Your request to have the water comptroller take immediate steps and intervene in this process shows a lack of faith that due process is being adequately considered.and oversteps the limitations of your position.
Feel free to contact me directly at any point as our group will be working closely with the city and Snuneymuxw First Nation to engage the public in both short term mitigation planning and long term solutions.


Jeff Solomon
Colliery Dam Park Preservation Society

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