Off with their Heads!
Ron Bolin: June 12, 2013
At its meeting of June 10, 2013, Nanaimo City Council, in a 5 to 4 decision, decided to “authorize the public tender call for the removal of the lower and middle Chase River Dams.” This decision followed impassioned calls from the public, accompanied by some 37 presentations, all opposed to this unilateral move which has aroused general public suspicion regarding its underlying agenda: it was particularly to be noted that this motion did not contain any reference to Council’s previous unconvincing promise to rebuild or set in motion any actions in this regard. Also presented at the meeting was a letter of support from the MLA for the area, Doug Routley offering his services in assisting with discussions with the Ministers of Natural Resources and the Environment to provide: “an opportunity for the BC government to review measures and options that might meet requirements for safety and long-term considerations to be met.” There was also a verbal offer made by a local developer to undertake a contract for the design build and reconstruction of the dams for a fixed and bonded sum of $8.6 million. I am trying to contact this gentleman to determine whether my interpretation of his comments is correct and if a bona fide offer has been made to the City.
When the delegations had finished and it was time to consider the motion, Councillor Pattje made an exceedingly statesmanlike presentation regarding his opposition to the motion, regardless of Council’s May 13 decision in this matter. Agreeing with him to see the recommendation defeated were Councillors Bestwick, Kipp and McKay, on fundamentally similar grounds. Councillors Johnston and Brennan extensively defended the motion on the grounds of public safety and their understanding of the facts. Mayor Ruttan was apparently reassured by the May 13 agreement to rebuild, if, if, if…. Apparently contemptuous of the audience and the public at large, neither Councillor Greves nor Councillor Anderson deigned to defend their votes in favour of the motion. These latter five prevailed.
One can view this meeting on line at: http://www.nanaimo.ca/meetings/VideoPlayer/Index/C130610V
What can one say of such a meeting and such a decision? One might recommend, rather than spending an as yet undetermined sum of money at $1200 per head for a Calgary Trade Mission, that that money be spent sending someone to Las Vegas to determine from a reputable betting agent what odds they would give on the Colliery dams failing in the next year or two. After all, the fundamental problem here is risk vs cost. The cost of losing these two lakes is extremely high: this park and all that it represents to the residents of Harewood and to the City at large becomes just another patch of ground. The risk of failure in the next year or two as estimated by amateur guessers is a matter of broad conjecture and, at this time, little substance.
And where have been the delegations of those dwelling or working in the Harewood plain who feel so threatened that they want to see the dams removed? I am sure that there may be some. But where are they? Are they restricted to members of Council? Indeed, previously in surveys of that area and again on Monday no Harewood delegations came forward to express their immediate fear and demand immediate removal. Just how far along the road to an Orwellian managed state have we come. Big Brother does NOT always know best.
This subject calls out for further consideration in view of the situation. Feel free to comment to this or other local newspapers, blogs, in Nanaimo and, of course, to Council. Continue to support the Lakes and their peace. See you at the Beer and Burger fund raiser at the Queens on June 28, 6-11pm.
In case there is any misunderstanding, the words in the title to this posting refer to the vote to remove the dam heads.
The document formalizing the verbal offer to renew the dams from CANBuild Solutions, a Nanaimo development firm, can be found HERE.
Acting swiftly, the City has posted the Bid Opportunity for Removal of Middle and Lower Chase River Dams on its web site. See:
I await word on a bid for the whole ball of wax and will note when I am notified.
Another major player has entered the Park with this Press Release:
For those who may have previously read this post, it has now been enhanced by the inclusion of a link to the development proposal for renewal of the dams which was provided to the City this morning. See the addition at the end of the original post above.
I offer this correspondence with the City Manager regarding the situation now as regards the renewal of the Colliery Dams in the light of both verbal and documented offers from CANBuild. I would call your attention to two quake related situations and the way in which they have been -or are being- handled: The New City Hall Annex on the one hand and the Colliery Dam proposal on the other. I ask why the difference. Do you have any information or an opinion in this regard? Note that in his response Mr. Kenning does not answer the question which was asked of him, but rather skates around it. What does this mean for what happens next?
From: Ron Bolin [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Friday, June 14, 2013 1:51 PM
To: Al Kenning
Subject: New/Old Information regarding the Colliery Dams
I would like to enquire about where the matter of the RFP for removal now stands. At Monday’s meeting a local developer presented a binding and bonded offer to renew the dams for a maximum cost to the City of $8.6 million dollars, i.e. only $1.6 million over the estimated but not guaranteed original estimate made by the City for removal and naturalization. Subsequently the City promised to rebuild the dams with no estimated timeframe or cost.
Under these circumstances and in view of the verbal offer which preceded the RFP and has now been matched with appropriate documentation, what procedure is to be followed regarding the RFP? Will it be tabled with interested vendors pending a decision in this matter given that the verbal offer preceded the RFP and is, further, complete?
The Canbuild proposal is a proposal to both remove and rebuild in a single process whereas the city’s tender is just to remove. Canbuild thinks they can draw down the water now and keep it down over the winter while new dams are planned and designed. From what I have read he does not explain how he is going to do this other than the following statement: “the method of drawing down the water, maintaining safe water levels over the winter and the design of the new dams will be developed through a team of professional engineers…”. This is a fairly big uncertainty for them to leave unresolved and city staff and city engineers do not believe it can be done in an economically viable way that meets the requirements of the Dam Safety Branch – without removal of the dams.
Canbuild’s is also a “design build” proposal where they engage the engineers and do the construction work whereas the City is moving forward under a more traditional model where the City engages the engineers and then calls tenders for construction. Under the traditional model the City has more control over the design (and consultation and SFN engagement etc). Design build is a widely accepted process and has merit in appropriate applications but is not the method the City is currently going forward with for this project.
Please also note the difference between the City’s tender process and your reference to an “RFP”. A tender process requires the contractors submitting bids to strictly comply with the design and construction parameters laid out in the tender documents. An RFP process is a more flexible process that is used in cases where there is more flexibility in the potential solutions.
Al Kenning, City Manager
250-755-4410 (phone); 250-755-4436 (fax)
Visit the City’s website at: http://www.nanaimo.ca
The demolition of the dams is a done deal.
I will throw in my $20 for a beer & burger just to make life difficult for the perpetrators of this decision.
Perhaps we should look down the road to head off more of the same ‘ be very very scared’ make work projects by unelected bodies in this Province.
The $65million water treatment project was no different to the Colliery Dam project both are unnecessary.
No doubt there will be much more to follow.
The demolition may be a done deal. All plans contemplate removal….What isn’t a done deal is what comes next, when it will come, and how much it will cost… The beauty of the CANBuild deal is that it is all included.
Who is to say the replacement could cost less if a solution were found that did not require the removal of the existing dams.This rush to ‘blow them up’ is typical of the braintrust at city hall.
Further to my discussion with Mr. Kenning (sent this evening):
I feel sure that any difficulties concerning the draw down of water during the winter months can be examined and overcome within the contract limit set by CANBuild and the methods for doing so should be clarified . Certainly at this time I am not aware of the methods which will guarantee the control of flow following the removal of the dams. Too much water is too much water. Either way flow ultimately depends on the amount of water to be moved over a set terrain and dams are often used for this very purpose.
I also can’t help but notice that in the other recent case where the City was called upon to combat a potential threat to more that a hundred souls from an earthquake, the City opted for the Design Build process for the new SARC. On its web site the Windley Construction Company notes: “The replacement of City Hall Annex located at 411 Dunsmuir Street is a design build project by Windley Contracting (2010)” Why was this process chosen there and apparently eschewed here?
Too many questions of too great a consequence to too many people remain for there to be a rush to judgement on this matter. Chief White and Snuneymuxw Treaty rights have now also spoken for clarification of the issues surrounding this matter. MLA Doug Routley has asked for further discussion and pledged assistance in dealing with the appropriate Ministries. Thousands of our citizens have asked for a definition of the City’s plan with full costs and schedules attached. As one of these latter, I ask that you work with Council and with Provincial officials to ensure that this project, the basic need for which is denied by none, is done to the highest civic as well as safety standards. I ask that the City’s tender for demolition alone be put on hold while so many egregious holes remain in our community understanding.
The demolition may be a done deal. All plans contemplate removal….What isn’t a done deal is what comes next, when it will come, and how much it will cost… The beauty of the CANBuild deal is that it is all included.
I don’t believe tha the CANbuild proposal was proposed or offered by the City.
As such it will be thrown out.
To support such a proposal would undermine both Council & staff.
Do you really think anyone can over ride those obstacles?
We need two things to happen ( for starters)
That the ratepayers association is successful.
That the Municpality act is challenged & changed to reflect the real aspriations of taxpayers .
So please explain why this proposal to remedy a City problem is different than the Windley proposal and why such reasons should prevent Council from re-examining their position in this matter the light of formal offers from both the Snuneymuxh and CANBuild which only missed the release of the tender by hours. Should those hours be allowed to cost the city a fortune in time and costs in both money and civic harmony when the tender can be suspended without great cost to any firms which may wish to respond -especially as verbal notice of this new information was given before the release of the tender?
……….city staff and city engineers do not believe that CANbuild can deliver the objective (dam refurbishment) in “an economically viable way” …………..End of story! Do not question this belief. City staff and city engineers hold this belief because they have been told precisely how much it will cost to demolish the dams.
If memory serves the $8.6 million dollar figure was that mentioned in both reports to the city on the cost of various options for removal and rebuilding, albeit they built in an extra 30% safety factor, despite the fact that they had already built safety factors into each of the elements which made up the $8.6 million.
Are you really saying that they had the winning bid even before the tender was let? And the the overall costs don’t matter? That this process smells?
PS: Verbal bids are legal in BC. A verbal offer was made publicly on June 10 in front of many observers and moreover was captured on tape. Has that offer been declined? And if so, on what grounds?
They also said it would cost $30 million to replace them. I don’t see them as a credible source any longer.
I am saying that the e-mail from the City Manager reveals that decisions are not made on a rational basis but rather as a matter of belief. The discussion is of the form; they think they can / we don’t believe they can / end of story, we win! The discussion hardly matters anyway because Council has given instructions to remove the dams.
If you want to save the lakes formed by these dams then you must convince Council that Colliery Dam Park contains cultural treasures much loved by the public, therefore these lakes are deserving of retention and protection. That being the case Council can then instruct staff to develop a plan to refurbish the dams.
I would expect that the first step in a refurbishment plan would be to lower the water levels behind the dams thereby eliminating flood risk downstream. This activity would form the first tender package. It is a very different tender package than “demolish and remove”.
The “costs” are all quite imaginary. The budget to “demolish and remove” is I expect based on a contractors estimate. The tender bid to “demolish and remove” may or may not be less than the cost to refurbish. We do not know the answer because the question is unstudied. We do know that it will not cost much to drain the water and that it will then be possible to study the question of refurbishment cost in great detail.
Therefore the motion that should be put before Council at this stage is to the effect that:
In view of the fact that the cost to “demolish and remove” will far exceed the “cost to drain and investigate” staff is hereby instructed to pursue the latter course of action.
In the event that refurbishment cannot be funded we will still have heritage structures. Remember it is the water that is the problem not the concrete!
“Design Build” is a much favored contractual relationship between contractors and civil servants. The reasons are as follows;
1. There is no fixed design, so there is no fixed price.
2. There is no oversight of the building program allowing staff to request whatever they wish.
3. There is no opportunity for competitive bidding amongst consultants and suppliers.
4. There is no competition amongst Architects and Engineers which would allow for the best design proposal to be selected.
5. There is no record of the lowest bid for any expenditure.
6. There is no opportunity for public oversight.
7. There is zero public participation.
For these reasons “Design Build Contracts” should never be used when expending public taxpayer money
Have you read the proposal? There is a maximum cost for the project which is commensurate with the estimates made by the City’s contractors and provision is made in the proposal for public participation.
If I have missed something, please advise.
Please provide a link to the proposal……………..
I am speaking in general terms. Design Build was the method used to construct the Annex.
The tender documents for dam removal can be found at;
Click to access 1%20Bidding%20Requirement%20and%20Contract%20Form.pdf
The scope of work is very specifically defined. Competitive bidding can be expected.
It’s good to hear from you. The problem is that there has been too little
discussion of this issue and there are many considerations which have been,
in my opinion, overlooked, starting with the very questionable justification
for an in camera decision to remove the dams in the first place. You may
recall that the cost at that time was set at $7 million for removal and
“naturalization”. As I see it there is a bonded proposal on the table to
redo the dams to 1:10,000 for $8.6 million. To me $1.6 million more is a
small price to pay for assurance, public peace and keeping a unique public
asset of much more value than some expenditures which I could itemize,
starting with the donation of $1,159,732.63 of general ratepayers money
tomorrow night to the DNBIA. What is of more value to our citizens?
I have heard nothing about the costs of preceding as Council has deigned
thus far which totally ignores all the expenses involved in the cavalier
promise to rebuild which they have made nor has the City even begun to
answer the procedural questions raised recently at Council by Craig Evans.
I have heard nothing really about the flood situation, with or without the
dams given the higher risks associated with the new Reservoir as it impacts
the dams. The actuarial questions involved in reward as well as in risk
seem to have been abandoned. I am not inevitably wedded to keeping the
lakes, but I have not heard a stick of what I consider to be reasonable
evidence to show that a delay of a year or two to keep the jewels of this
park represents a sufficient risk, particularly under the conditions put
forward by CANBuild, to offset a rational and complete approach to the
entire problem before we start, rather than the Chicken Little “The Sky is
falling. The sky is falling” approach which the City has thus far
This issue started off on the wrong foot and the ensuing stagger only
continues to make it worse. I hope that you may consider the proposal
before you carefully. We are, in my estimation, spending much more in other
discretionary areas for much less.
PS: I recently put forward a skeleton proposal on how we all might reach
some reasonable approach to our budgeting decisions and would appreciate
From: George Anderson
Sent: Sunday, June 23, 2013 9:24 PM
To: Ron Bolin
Subject: Re: Seismic Standard to which the New Reservoir No. 1 is being
As one of the people who comes to Council and says taxes are to high and
that council should look for cheaper option. I’m curious why you’re
advocating for the most expensive option in regards to colliery dams? You’ve
also mentioned asset management in our last conversation at Perkins coffee
should that the city continues to add more assets instead trying to lessen
and deal with what we already have. Even though we are going down the path
of intending to build new dams I’m curious about your previous comments as
they don’t match up with your adamant comments that we should rebuild the
dams which has an ongoing cost to the tax payers and is the most expensive
Sent from my iPad
On 2013-06-23, at 9:13 PM, “Ron Bolin”
Thank you for your prompt response. As you surmised, part of my question
was oriented to the various standards of differing structures, even when the
probable # of lives lost might be the same. I think here particularly of
large public structures and am not referring to the # of direct deaths which
might occur due to a collapse of Resevoir #1 which I grant you, in and of
itself, is probably less than 100.
In the case, however, of the reservoir being destroyed in a 1 in 2475 year
seismic event, can we take it for granted that the present dams, estimated
to survive a 1 in 475 year event, would collapse? Or that the dams when
they are rebuilt to a 1:10,000 year event would remain unaffected by a
Reservoir collapse as a result of a 1 in 2475 event? Would the new dams
survive both the quake and the flood? Have we considered the concatenation
of events? Would I be incorrect in asserting that the result of the sudden
release of water impounded in a built reservoir would be the same as that
volume held behind a built dam? Or that the Dam Safety Branch would still
concern itself with a dam where only 14,000 cubic metres of water is stored?
If such an event were to happen, how much of Nanaimo –especially of those
large public buildings the collapse of which could kill hundreds- would
remain? And who is best at estimating risk? The seller or the purchaser of
insurance? Or need this be a joint decision? If this risk is so great,
what has been the increase in insurance costs to those in the flood plain
and how much of that cost is attributable to the earthquake and how much to
the flood? If the dams are replaced, how much less will insurers charge
those who live in the Harewood Plain? As I understand it the only survey
taken in the plain showed very few were concerned about the risk even after
the City’s quite legitimate contact with all who live there. To what extent
is this whole affair really just a reaction to a bureaucratic attempt at
wholesale butt covering?
Regarding a flood event, what would be the effect of 14,000 cubic metres of
water being suddenly released with the dams missing? What happens to the
Chase River from the present dam site to the mouth of the Chase. I really
haven’t heard much reassuring about protection from the 1 in 200 year flood
event predicted, though it is possible to estimate that deaths from natural
flooding would probably be minimal as the event is of greater duration
allowing for escape. We can see how fickle events can be with a 1 in 100
year event in Calgary in 2005 being followed by an even worse event less
than 10 years later. I have heard a lot about the dams collapsing from a
seismic event. I have heard little (or have I missed something) about
dealing with normal flood events, with or without the dams, granted that
they may be less lethal.
I am really trying to understand the risks that are involved in the Dams
compared to the rewards which they provide –and there are many. If one were
to be worried about seismic events, perhaps we should really be worried
about our large public structures: what kind of an event is Barsby built to
survive? If we would like to minimize lethal risks, there are, I am sure,
better places to begin than with the dams. Then again, perhaps we should
all just go to bed, cover up our heads and hope that the risk of being
killed by an errant vehicle or a meteorite has thus been minimized. But for
now, I would be interested to understand the effect of the new reservoir in
the current Colliery Dam mix. The real problem as I see it is that we have
not covered all the bases nor clearly asked for the response from the
stands. Act in haste, repent at leisure. While it might be convenient for
some or all Council members that the definitive decision to rebuild the
dams not be reached before the November 2014 municipal election, our present
Council owes it to the public to ensure or deny this capability at the
From: Susan Clift
Sent: Friday, June 21, 2013 4:36 PM
To: ‘Ron Bolin’
Cc: Al Kenning
Subject: RE: Seismic Standard to which the New Reservoir No. 1 is being
I’m not sure why you asked the questions in your email, but if I am
interpreting correctly, you are either asking why different types of manmade
structures are required to withstand different design seismic events, or you
are implying that the “standards” are different and perhaps they shouldn’t
be. You have asked about Reservoir #1 and the Colliery Dams.
Structures such as the new Reservoir #1 are subject to the requirements of
the National Building Code of Canada. The structure is a tank, not a dam
and holds less than 1/10th of the volume of the Colliery Lakes. It has been
designed to a post disaster standard for this type of structure, and will
survive a seismic event of 1 in 2475 years. If it failed, no deaths would
be expected. Environmental and infrastructure damage would likely occur.
The Colliery Dams are subject to the Canadian Dam Safety Guidelines by
provincial legislation. The probability of failure of the Colliery dams as
they exist now is 1 in 475 years for a seismic event and 1 in 200 for a
flood event. The 1 in 10,000 year seismic event and the probable maximum
flood are the required standards to be met for a replacement dam that has an
Extreme consequence. This Extreme consequence standard is in place due to
the number of expected deaths. The night time impacts turned out to yield
the highest number of deaths (130) due to longer expected time to evacuate
and be aware of the danger.
As another example, the new Quarterway bridge was built to survive a 1 in
200 year flood and withstand a 1 in 1,000 year seismic event. The reason why
there are different seismic requirements for bridges, buildings, dams etc is
to account for the differing societal tolerances of a potential failure.
This tolerance for failure (or more precisely lack of tolerance), and its
associated deaths and damages has been codified into the design
requirements. Earthquake engineering is an evolving science with changes to
regulations occurring approximately every decade. One thing that we can say
with some certainty is that the regulations have only become more stringent
over time, not more lax.
Susan Clift, P.Eng.
Director, Engineering & Public Works
From: Ron Bolin [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Thursday, June 20, 2013 8:53 PM
To: Susan Clift
Cc: Al Kenning
Subject: Seismic Standard to which the New Reservoir No. 1 is being built
In looking at the layout at the Colliery Dams I have noticed that the new
Reservoir No. 1 sits where it would immediately drain into the Middle Lake
in the case of a failure of the Reservoir. If my calculations are correct
it could almost immediately release a volume of water into the middle lake
equivalent to about 12% of the lakes present volume. (It of course would
release the same amount of water should the lake be absent.) I am thus very
interested in the seismic standard to which the Reservoir is being built,
how it relates to that which has been established for the dams and in the
anticipated effect this would have on the lower Chase River if the lakes
Another Press Release… Pay Attention.
Kudos to Chief Doug White and the Snuneymuxw First Nation for stepping up with a characteristically calm and thoughtful communication. This highly rational, clearly stated and well thought out proposal from the Snuneymuxw First Nation MUST be given serious and respectful consideration.
Excerpt from the Snuneymuw First Nation Website:
Snuneymuxw has proposed a public, transparent, and time-limited process to review all alternatives to have dams at that site, with a goal of building some general consensus about the best option going forward. In that process every alternative would be considered from a range of factors including: cost, risk to the public, potential impact on Snuneymuxw Fisheries and other interests, and potential impact to the environment. Other features of the process Snuneymuxw proposes include the following:
The process would begin by mid-July and be completed by the end of September.
During the process the current dams would remain in place, and risk from the existing dams would be mitigated through drawing down of water levels.
The process would engage the public, the City of Nanaimo, the Province of British Columbia, DFO, Snuneymuxw, and stakeholder community groups.
The process would be guided by a facilitator, who would make recommendations at the end of the process.
An expert, independent technical team would work with the facilitator and provide input on each alternative.
All aspects of the process would be public – meaning that all information provided to the facilitator would be made public.
“When public issues take on this type of complexity, they merit focused, determined, public efforts to build a consensus. This is why Snuneymuxw is advancing this approach. We are prepared to support such a process, fully engage with it, and support it however we can. I hope, encourage, and challenge the public, the Province, and the City Council to support the proposal Snuneymuxw is making, turn down the temperature on this issue, and get down to some hard work together in the upcoming months.”