Nanaimo officials look at options to new dam

Adding extra height to current Jump Creek Dam could provide at least one potential alternative 

Robert Barron, Daily News

Published: Friday, August 10, 2012

Adding height to Jump Creek Dam could provide the City of Nanaimo another alternative to building a completely new dam in the city’s watershed to meet the area’s growing potable water needs.

But Nanaimo’s water manager Bill Sims said there’s no guarantees at this stage that this option would be much cheaper than plans to build a new, approximately $60-million dam.

Nanaimo is looking for options to increase water supply storage

Engineers from MWH Canada, a global provider of environmental engineering, strategic consulting and construction services, are currently conducting studies in the city’s watershed to come up with recommendations on what the best strategies are for the city to increase its water supply.

Sims said four possible sites for a new dam and reservoir have been identified so far, as MWH moves forward with its $460,000 contract with the city, as well as the possibility of raising the height of the current dam at Jump Creek.

“We would need to add at least 21-million cubic metres of water to the Jump Creek reservoir if council decides to move forward with that option,” Sims said.

“It’s still early in this study and we’re not sure just how much additional storage capacity is available at the reservoir to meet future needs if we raise the dam. Whether the city decides to build a new dam or build on the existing one, I expect that neither will be a cheap option.”

The city’s water strategy indicates that Nanaimo will need an additional 20 million cubic metres of water to meet the growing demand from a population that is expected to reach 100,000 by 2020.

Even estimating the most optimistic water conservation practices, the city would still lack sufficient water supply at that time.

To meet the growing water needs, the city has two major water infrastructure projects planned within the next eight years, including a $65-million water-treatment plant and a second dam.

Another option that is currently being explored is a power-sharing agreement with the Harmac pulp mill.

Harmac, which uses up to 7.5 million litres of water a day for its milling activities when in full operation with three production lines, has its own dam, piping and water reserves from Fourth Lake and water licences that far exceed the mill’s needs.

However, legal challenges from the Snuneymuxw First Nation may make that option unattainable, at least in the near future.

Sims said the MWH engineers are expected to have their report completed by this fall and are expected to make recommendations on how council should proceed.

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