Hello and happy spring! The lengthening evening light is energizing, it feels great to be stretching out of hibernation. Actions on the proposed Wharves Service and the Integrated Sustainability Plan occurred at the March 15 SRD meetings, this Director’s Report shares an overview.
Wharves Service Initiative
The Wharves Service Initiative is moving forward! On February 14, 2023 there were two open houses, clarifying the process and receive feedback, thanks to those who took the time to come out. These meetings were valuable and improved the current iteration of the wharves service bylaw. The 2022 wharves service proposal contained six wharves: three managed by SRD Parks plus the three Transport Canada divested wharves. During the meetings we heard a strong preference for the three Parks wharves to continue as they are; as a result, the new proposed wharves bylaw includes only the three divested wharves.
The three divested wharves are Surge Narrows, Owen Bay & Port Neville. In 2014 the Strathcona Regional District accepted responsibility for the wharves and an agreement was entered into that provided $2.9 million in funding to ensure major upgrades and repairs to these facilities would be done. There will be few capital expenditures that must be funded through local contributions in the short term. However, to ensure the wharves benefit from the capital works undertaken, it’s necessary to have a program for regular maintenance and repairs.
These wharves are vital for residents, businesses and recreational users throughout the area. The divestiture did not provide sufficient resources for long-term or ongoing maintenance costs which is the reason for this initiative. Having a Service in place ensures appropriate maintenance of wharf infrastructure can be done as required (historically the maintenance of these wharves was the responsibility of the Government of Canada).
At the meetings I heard that Port Neville’s wharf is important to coastal mariners but doesn’t have a community relying on it; that returning it to Transport Canada would be the preferred action. SRD staff spoke with Transport Canada and were told that they had never yet been asked to ’take back a wharf’, that there is a legal agreement in place between TC & the SRD, and that they wouldn’t commit to any answers beyond that unless the request was in writing, in which case a response would be a minimum of several months. The SRD is proceeding with a bylaw for three wharves because time is running out and waiting several months for a reply which could still be ’no’ didn’t seem a reasonable solution considering the 2024 deadline and the vital importance of this project to many Outer Discovery Islanders.
At the Board meeting March 15 I made a subsequent motion to the wharves bylaw which was unanimously supported by the Board. The motion was THAT the Strathcona Regional District send a letter to the Director General of Marine Safety and Security with Transport Canada explaining the downloading of costs from this federal agency to sparsely-populated remote areas through divestiture of wharves is creating financial challenges; and that the letter request consideration of additional financial support for Electoral Areas and communities which have accepted the responsibility and mounting financial burden of providing safe wharves accessible to all Canadians; and that copies of the letter be sent to our MP and MLA. A conversation has begun, one I intend to pursue.
Currently proposed Bylaw 487 for a Wharves Service is in the hands of the Inspector for Municipalities for approval, within months the decision will be passed to Area C residents to make through an Alternative Approval Process. The entirety of Area C is designated as the area benefiting from the wharves service, the requisition area, and those entitled to opine during the AAP. If residents choose not to support the Alternative Approval Process for the Wharves Service, a more fulsome conversation between the SRD and Transport Canada will be necessary as creating a service is one of the stipulations of the wharves divestiture agreement with the SRD.
Here’s some good news: the Integrated Community Sustainability Plan is completed and has been presented to the Electoral Area Services Committee.
The ICSP’s Vision Statement is: Area C is a beautiful coastal area of high ecological diversity and unique communities working to protect the natural environment, mitigate climate change, maintain their rural character and community vitality, and meet diverse community needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs.
Many thanks to the volunteer Task Force members for their energy and collaboration with SRD staff and consultant, and also to the 100+ residents who provided input in November.
Recently I was asked if the SRD Board had chosen to limit communication between Directors and residents: the answer is that correspondence continues to be accepted. Email to firstname.lastname@example.org, addressed to the Chair and Board of the Strathcona Regional District.
You’re welcome to connect with me with questions or concerns.
Email RMawhinney@srd.ca, or call/ text 250.203.2468.
Until next time,
Respectfully and sincerely,