This is a letter I just sent to my municipal officials, with various provincial and federal ministers and entities CC'd. When you start tinkering with my groundwater, especially in an era of greater and greater drought, I get a little upset.
Director, Southern Gulf Islands
Capital Regional District
Dear Mr. Howe,
I am writing in protest of the ongoing decommissioning of the Gardom Pond dam on North Pender Island and the imminent drainage of Gardom Pond itself.
As a resident of Gardom Lane, I find the entire process by which the CRD and the Province have gone about this undertaking unconscionable. The lack of transparency and lack of consultation with stakeholders has been appalling. The only stakeholders consulted were the six water lot license holders. No consideration was given to the needs of nearby residents, who number among the dozens.
These residents’ drinking water aquifer is dependent upon a number of factors, and several experts have clearly stated that the draining of Gardom Pond—and the resultant loss in static surface water volume—will undoubtedly result in a decrease in pressure in the underlying groundwater aquifer, raising the risk of salt water intrusion into the aquifer, which would destroy our wells.
No groundwater study was undertaken prior to project approval and no public consultation was done. The project engineer “dropping by” after decommissioning had already started does not count, nor does the single meeting to discuss the project’s timeline, since at that point, the project had already been approved. The time for consultation is before project approval, not after all the wheels have been set in motion.
I completely understand the risks associated with the existing dam, and the potential impacts to downstream residents’ safety. But given the increase in drought conditions being wrought by climate change, I simply can’t understand how decommissioning was approved by all levels of government without a single groundwater study, nor why bids for remediation of the dam were not requested. A consultation with outside engineering firms has indicated that the CRD’s $1.5 million dollar estimate for remediation is exorbitantly high and not reflective of the actual cost of remediation, which could be significantly cheaper than $1.5 million and, in fact, on a par with the current decommissioning bid.
It is my understanding that other dams in the province have been required by the province to be remediated as opposed to decommissioned because of the potential for ecosystem damage. The claim that the decommissioning of the Gardom Pond dam will result in the “original” ecosystem being restored does not hold water. Since the pond was created decades ago, a new ecosystem has thrived, and it is that ecosystem which should be preserved—an important watershed that not only supplies residents with our sole source of drinking water but harbours two blue-listed protected species. It bothers me that this project seems to be held to different standards than others in the province.
We have been told by the project engineer that should our wells be affected by this project, we are welcome to sue the CRD. As a taxpayer, I should think that the CRD would find it much more cost-effective to conduct proper studies and cost-benefit analyses, than to fight costly lawsuits at taxpayer expense further down the line. We have now taken steps to monitor our well levels on an ongoing basis. Believe me, if my well goes dry or brackish as a result of this project, I will be suing.
I would also like to know why the lion’s share of the CRD taxes I have been paying for a dozen years have been allocated to fire fighting, when the Pender Island fire chief himself has acknowledged that for years, the Gardom Pond standpipe has been unusable. We’ve been told that the CRD cares about us. You will excuse me if in light of everything that has come out surrounding Gardom Pond, I am sceptical of this claim.
Today I received word that the draining of the pond has been accelerated ahead of schedule. This points to a rushed, and flawed process, and an attempt to get ahead of the tide of protest this project has engendered, in the hopes that its political ramifications will just “go away” after the damage has already been done and it is too late to stop its inertia.
Well guess what? If you foul my water I will not go away.
Please halt this project now and do the proper due diligence.
P. Eng. (non-practicing)