Cambridge councillors have voted unanimously against a recommendation to remove the Riverside Dam, choosing instead to pursue a rebuild.

The decision was made Tuesday night, following a lengthy discussion including delegations from several Cambridge residents.

Mayor Doug Craig said it was about council deciding to do “what the community wants.”

The dam, which was constructed in the mid-19th century, has been deteriorating in recent years. The city took responsibility for it in the late 2000s, and city staff believe it is at imminent risk of failure.

City staff had recommended removing the dam and naturalizing the area. That proposal was supported by the Grand River Conservation Authority, Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources and officials in Six Nations, and was said to have such advantages as improved water quality, a healthier environment for fish and a reduction in flooding concerns around Riverside Park.

Instead, councillors voted to rebuild the dam – an option which had been advocated for by the Preston Town Centre BIA and a citizens’ group called Save the Dam. They argued that it was an important part the community.

“Everybody loves the look of it. It’s been there for 150 years, and it’s hard to say goodbye to it,” Coun. Donna Reid said prior to Tuesday’s vote.

Rebuilding the dam was considered the second-best of eight options by the city working group assigned to the project. At a total cost of $8.5 million, it is more expensive than any of the other measures that were considered.

The working group had considered making a rebuild their recommendation because of tourism benefits for the city, but changed their mind after being unable to find a clear way to measure tourism impacts.

No detailed design work for a rebuild has been completed, and there is no timetable for the project to be completed.

“We’re going to reconfigure and have more meetings on how to proceed with that,” Craig said.

With reporting by Natalie van Rooy