Tender awarded to build controversial Stoney Hill Road

The road to Stoney Hill is going ahead.

After decades of back-and-forth debate, North Cowichan council awarded the $2,676,374.17 contract at its Jan. 21 meeting.

The tender winning company is Dawson Construction, who have been waiting since before Christmas to get going because North Cowichan ran into a last minute problem with BC Hydro regarding the proposed road.

However, North Cowichan CAO Dave Devana told council, the municipality’s engineering staff has worked that out with Hydro, allowing the purchase of the land to go ahead.

"We were then able to submit our dedicated road and were accepted and we paid $300,000. We now own the road through the farm," he said.

"We’ve also been meeting with Cowichan Tribes regarding their monitoring of the project and I believe those discussions are going well. The archaeological study is completed as you all know. We are going to adhere to the recommendations for the section through the farm. We talked about this last time. We said we would be doing further review of some middens that we had identified along Fairweather Road," he said.

Council faced two decisions: first, to award the contract and second, to submit for an alteration permit, now that the municipality is aware of the middens.

"In the event that we don’t think we can meet the conditions on that permit, we can just move the Fairweather Road dedication into our municipal property which is just south of the road. We’ve actually done the engineering work for that," he said.

Dave Conway, manager of engineering for capital projects said, "The application for the alteration permit will involve working with the archaeologist.

"In our minds it would be some effort towards exploring what’s there with Cowichan Tribes’ involvement and endorsement."

There are no details yet as to how this would look.

"The recommendation is that we proceed with that while building the remaining portions of the road," he said.

"Our expectation in conversations with the archaeologist is that a permit would be a go/no-go within about six months so it fits quite well with the timing window we’re working around the watercourse," Conway said.

Devana said the permit was an option that should be kept open.

"It may seem like we’re stuck on the existing road but that’s not necessarily the case. If we can find a reasonable solution with the alteration permit, why not at least find out the answer? If that comes out negative, then we have a Plan B," he said.

Coun. Rob Douglas asked if, with the recent drop in fuel prices, there would be any opportunity to get a cheaper price on the contract but Devana shook his head.

"We have tried the patience of this contractor already. We have renegotiated and caused significant reduction in the contract already by re-scoping the work. They’ve agreed to do that. They’ve also deferred the project to a longer time. We need to award it before Jan. 31. I don’t think you should be going back again halfway through to retender. There could be savings on fuel but there could be other costs that have gone higher. They would want to renegotiate them as well," he said.