Reay Creek in Sidney. Town council is considering removing an upstream dam and the returning the watercourse to full stream status. It’s part of ongoing clean up and restoration discussions with Transport Canada and other partners. (Steven Heywood/News Staff file)

Sidney contaminated creek study given green light

Town will seek public feedback on clean up options in June

When the Town of Sidney decides what to do with the Reay Creek dam, it’s bound to have an impact on fish in the waterway.

Councillors on March 26 approved plans to study the fish habitat of Reay Creek, awarding a $21,450 contract to LGL Limited of Sidney. LGL will, as detailed in its communications with the Town, review existing fish and fish habitat information, assess the habitat along Reay Creek, count fish and analyze the data. A final report, expected by May, would summarize that information and outline the potential effects of changes to the dam.

RELATED: Future of dam in the hands of Sidney council, community.

The Town is already working with Thurber Engineering on its options for the Reay Creek dam — from removing it, to replacing it, or remediating it and keeping it in place.

The work is part of clean up efforts under way on Reay Creek, whose waterway and upstream duck pond on municipal land, were found to be contaminated with heavy metals from years of runoff from the Victoria airport when it was operated by the federal government. Transport Canada has taken responsibility for the lion’s share of the clean up and is currently working on a remediation plan.

In the years since the airport was taken over by the Victoria Airport Authority (VAA), the upper reaches of Reay Creek on airport property have been cleaned up. Most recently, the VAA created a storm water detention area and build a small dam to better control runoff under Canora Road and onto Sidney’s municipal property.

RELATED: Victoria airport spending $675,000 on creek flow improvements.

Once the dam report is in, and the fish study is complete, Sidney plans on taking that information to the public — in June — for feedback on municipal plans. Town staff say most any decision they make on the dam will cost a significant amount of money.

Councillor Peter Wainwright says it behooves the municipality to not only deal with the dam, but to ensure that the sources of contamination are cut off, or else the problem will continue.

He said a critical peice of this puzzle is having somebody (like Transport Canada) demonstrate to Sidney that the source of contamination “is effectively controlled.”

“We don’t want to go through an exercise of cleaning up the pond only to find it gets contaminated later, because they never effectively controlled the source.”

Wainwright said the Capital Regional District, which tests water outflows into the ocean regularly, has detected contamination at the mouth of Reay Creek. He said the Town might do a good job on the pond and dam clean up, but added there are still questions about the rest of the waterway. He wonders if the rest of the creek is also contaminated and, if so, suggested the Town might ask Transport Canada to help with that problem as well.

Council has approved the timeline. After the public consultation this summer, a decision on the dam’s future could come as early as August, with notification of Sidney’s plans to Transport Canada by September.

The Sidney Community Association is holding a meeting about Reay Creek and the residents’ efforts to get attention on the issue — and the creek cleaned up — on Sun., April 8, 2 p.m. at Sidney All Care, 2269 Mills Road.

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