Penderites rally to save Razor Point area dam

MLA says dam needs to be brought up to current standards

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Concerned residents of Pender Island held a rally against the draining of the Gardom Pond on Thursday, which turned into an impromptu town hall after Saanich North and the Islands MLA Adam Olsen made a surprise appearance.

Residents of the Razor Point area on North Pender Island have been concerned about plans to decommission the pond’s dam, which was identified in a provincial survey of dams as “high consequence.” Residents are concerned that the dam contains a large amount of fresh water, and that removing the dam would affect the water supply of the area, as well as the ability to fight fires in Razor Point.

“Everywhere we turn it’s like we’re facing this wall of bias towards getting rid of this freshwater, which we have very little of here on North Pender. Some people are not flushing their toilets and saving their toothbrushing water to put on their gardens so they don’t dry up, and in the meantime we’re watching 2.5 million gallons roll down the hill into the ocean,” Razor Point resident Mark Benson said.

In December 2018, the Capital Regional District received funds from the National Disaster Mitigation Program to decommission the dam. Consultation was done with the six water licence holders (of which the CRD is one) and the licensees agreed to decommission the dam in February 2017. Since work began on the project in June of this year, members of the public have been speaking out against the plan. Thursday’s protest was part of that outcry. At the event, Olsen heard from members of the public about their concerns with the project, and will hold a meeting with the involved stakeholders to discuss options other than completely decommissioning the dam.

“There are people who live downstream of it, and should it fail, it’s going to cause environmental and economic damage and potentially the loss of human life,” Olsen said. “It’s quite potentially disastrous should it give way. It needs to be brought up to standard, it needs to be maintained, there needs to be an organization that does that work, and we need to explore what the options are and the legal ramifications of doing it, and then find a solution of who’s going to hold that liability and who’s going to do the maintenance of the dam going forward.”

The residents of Pender Island are concerned about the lack of political will to look into other options.

“It’s so beyond comprehension why there isn’t more political will in this era of global climate change and unprecedented drought to make the necessary moves,” Benson said.

Olsen explained that he would be reaching out to various governments and property owners to try and organize a meeting that would bring all of the issues to the table.

“A large number of Penderites have said to me that water’s precious, not just for drinking, but for fire suppression and potential impact on aquifers,” he said. “There’s been an expression from the public to do what we can to try and preserve it as a community aspect and the challenge that they’ve laid in front of us is to find that solution.”

For more on this story, see the July 31, 2019 issue of the Gulf Islands Driftwood newspaper, or subscribe online.

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