Dam plan outcry heard

Trustee calls for public consultation

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Capital Regional District plans to decommission the Gardom Pond dam on North Pender Island have caused local public outcry, and an Islands Trust trustee has made a call for more public consultation before the project is allowed to continue.

The dam is slated to be decommissioned as part of the provincial government’s response to a failure at the Testalinden dam near Oliver, B.C. in 2010. The Gardom Pond dam was flagged during a survey conducted by the province as “high consequence.” The Capital Regional District consulted with the six water license holders with adjacent lands to the pond, who agreed to decommission the dam in February 2017. The project received $460,000 in federal funds through the National Disaster Mitigation Program, which would cover the entirety of the project’s costs.

Work on the project began in early June, which got the attention of people living in the Razor Point Water Service Area on North Pender. They reached out to Islands Trust trustee Ben McConchie about the issue, who has put out a call for more public consultation before the works are completed.

Though the dam’s decommissioning will ensure the safety of the people who live downhill from the structure from a dam failure, McConchie and other North Pender residents believe that other options could be looked at.

“I feel like the residents there haven’t had a proper voice and haven’t necessarily felt their concerns were heard,” McConchie said. “This is a great opportunity to educate people, and there’s a lot of outcry for this to at least be halted.”

Gardom Pond is a body of water that is adjacent to a CRD park. The pond lies within a Islands Trust riparian development permit area, and has the potential to be a part of the watershed that serves properties in the area. Though the dam is in a DPA, the CRD has an exemption to the DPA regulations and has proceeded with decommissioning plans without consultation with the Islands Trust.

“The fact that they didn’t even approach the Trust because they’re exempt makes me concerned,” McConchie said. “It kind of shows the inability of the Trust to stand up to its mandate to preserve and protect, particularly in these types of circumstances.”

McConchie said that the Local Trust Committee has agreed to do a metered groundwater study on North Pender Island, which would include the pond and the aquifer in the area.

The Islands Trust and the CRD have both declared a climate emergency in the area. Residents feel that the pond and the water stored therein are a valuable resource that needs to be protected. The Trust is looking into a legal option for stopping the work on the project, but residents would rather take a political route to resolving the issue.

“We have no water here. It’s getting scary, and with the weather that’s been going on lately, it’s been super dry … We need this water,” McConchie said. “Now is the time. When is an emergency an emergency? When do we save the water? When does that become the more important issue?”

The Driftwood reached out to the CRD for comment, but were unable to connect before press time.

For more on this story, see the June 12, 2019 issue of the Gulf Islands Driftwood newspaper, or subscribe online.

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