Dam not up to snuff

Sidney considers destroying Reay Creek dam following engineering firm report

Peninsula Streams member Reg Kirkham walks on the Reay Creek dam in Sidney

A dam on Reay Creek in Sidney has been deemed by an engineering firm to be not up to current standards and that has local politicians considering its demolition.

An earthen dam on Reay Creek was built an estimated 50 years ago by a local landowner, creating a pond which eventually became a residential area near Canora Road. It no longer conforms to B.C. dam safety guidelines, according to a report by Thurber Engineering. The firm was commissioned by the Town to review and inspect the dam and its report was made public at council’s Nov. 12 meeting.

While council voted to seek stakeholder input in the future of the dam and to determine the cost for a variety of options, their comments leaned towards dismantling the structure, eliminating the pond.

“I feel the existing dam needs to be removed,” said Councillor Mervyn Lougher-Goodey. “It should be put back to how (the stream) was before that.”

Mayor Larry Cross noted that before the Town took such action, they would have to consult with groups like Peninsula Streams.

“That group has a lot at stake there,” he said.

Ian Bruce, executive director of Peninsula Streams, says removing the dam is a legitimate option but the municipality will have to determine the costs of returning the area to a full-fledged stream.

“Removing the dam is one of the options Peninsula Streams considered when we began looking at the sediment in the pond,” Bruce said. “If you remove the dam, the sediment would still have to be removed.”

Bruce and other Peninsula Streams members and volunteers began taking sediment samples in September, to determine how long they have been accumulating and what, if any, contaminants are there. Simply taking the dam away, Bruce added, would flush some of the sediment downstream, potentially impacting the work his group and the Town have done over the years to restore the water course and turn the area into a local park.

Bruce added what happens at the pond should not be done for cost reasons alone. He noted even if the dam were taken out, the streamed would have to be restored for it to function as good fish habitat — and that isn’t going to be cheap.

“The determining factor should not just be the cost. Local property owners have expectations and wildlife does use the pond. Doing anything there will impact that.”

While the Town supports Peninsula Streams, Lougher-Goodey said the dam is the Town’s problem and is responsible.

Coun. Steve Price noted other groups, like the Sidney Anglers Association, should be involved as well. He added he feels there would be more benefit in returning the creek to a free flowing stream. Coun. Tim Chad added he was worried that if the dam were removed, it would send all “the crap” downstream.

Cross said Town staff will have to investigate the merits of all of their options — from repairing the dam, building a new one, removing it entirely or doing nothing at all.

Sediment test results starting to come in

Ian Bruce of Peninsula Streams says the initial results from sediment samples taken from Reay Creek Pond in September are showing their age.

The first step, he explained, is to determine if the samples taken were good (they are) and then to get the age of the sediments and pinpoint the timeline each layer was deposited in the pond.

There are no contaminant test results available yet.

“All of this sediment work,” said Bruce, “is a necessary part of determining the future of the (pond and the dam).”