Sidney is going ahead with plans to renovate a local dam.
Council earlier this month voted unanimously to renovate Reay Creek Dam in place with councillors directing staff to immediately tender design of the dam within the existing budget of $600,000. Sidney will also apply for grants to help offset costs and engage the public about the work .
Sidney’s decision comes after it had received an engineering report that showed the feasibility of renovations and public input from area residents and the Peninsula Stream Society in favour of renovating the dam on Reay Creek, a fish bearing stream running through the industrial area east of the airport and Sidney before draining into Bazan Bay.
The federal government has classified the pond created by the dam as a Class 1 contaminated site with a high priority for action thanks to high levels of heavy metal contamination including chromium, cadmium, zinc and lead caused by industrial activity at the airport.
Citing the engineering report and public input, Mayor Cliff McNeil-Smith said the renovations of the dam would maintain the pond as a habitat for fish among other ecological benefits.
With this decision, Sidney opts against removing the dam erected some decades ago.
“If we take the dam out, we have no idea of the negative consequences that could happen throughout that region and that entire ecosystem,” said Coun. Scott Garrnett.
But if council’s decision was unanimous, the public also heard concerns about what Coun. Terri O’Keeffee called “significant” cost escalations that could eventually come close to three-quarters of a million.
“The public needs to have a good idea of what this could potentially cost,” she said.
Coun. Chad Rintoul shared O’Keffee’s concerns about costs, but also noted that the tendering process will help answer questions about costs.
One unresolved question concerns the timing of the work.
Transport Canada had initially said that it would remediate Reay Creek pond in 2019, but has since announced that the work won’t happen this year. It has instead applied for funding to do the work in 2020.
It is also unclear whether Sidney will be able to piggy-back the renovation of the dam at the end of the remediation work by Transport Canada, which had previously denied responsibility for the contamination.
Chief Administrative Officer Randy Humble said the town has told Transport Canada that it would like to see the remediation and the renovation happen within the same window. “We have said it on multiple occasions, but they have their views and perspectives as well,” he said.
At issue is how many times authorities would have to drain the pond to do the work. If done together, authorities would have to drain the pond only once, thereby minimizing the potential harm to the local eco-system.