Dam stabilization less expensive for Cumberland than rebuild

Cumberland council approved a new option to stabilize the Stevens Lake dam, which is estimated to be significantly cheaper than the original reconstruction option.

EBA Engineering's Andrew Walker presented the new option Monday to Cumberland council.

"One of the options that EBA has used successfully in the past, with the City of Nanaimo for instance, is rock buttressing," Walker told council. "We also had a meeting with the Ministry of Environment (regarding Stevens Lake dam) and presented this option to them as well, and they accepted it."

The rock buttressing option involves infilling either side of the dam with rocks to stabilize ground that would be likely to liquify during an earthquake. According to a report to council from Village manager of operations Rob Crisfield, this option would cost the Village $365,000.

Crisfield added the reconstruction option estimate has doubled since preliminary estimates. The project was budgeted at $612,000 but dam reconstruction is now expected to cost more than $1.1 million to complete.

He added either option would successfully stabilize the dam and meet the Province's requirements.

Rock buttressing was the obvious choice to Coun. Gwyn Sproule and she moved a recommendation to approve that option.

Coun. Kate Greening, however, did not see rock buttressing as the obvious choice. She said council should receive more exact cost estimates for the new option and worried it could cost more than estimated.

She was also concerned that electors were asked to approve spending for a dam reconstruction project, not a rock buttressing project, during the alternate approval process last spring.

But, Village CAO Sundance Topham told Greening the alternate approval process listed the reconstruction as being for stability reasons.

Sproule questioned why taxpayers would complain about the project costing less with the new option than originally estimated with the reconstruction option.

"It appears that the rock buttressing achieves the same end (goal) of stability as a total rebuild," she said. "I could not understand why a taxpayer would then complain about that process of having to spend less money."

Mayor Leslie Baird pointed out all projects council approves are based on cost estimates, and they usually end up costing more than expected.

Council voted to approve the the rock buttressing recommendation with Greening opposed.

This work needs to be completed when the water reservoir at the dam is at its lowest level, in August/September. The reservoir may need to be further drained to complete the work. Crisfield said the reservoir will naturally refill over the fall, winter and spring months, and noted Cumberland's Coal Creek well can be used to supplement Cumberland's water supply during the project.


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