Did Bowen Islanders respond to the call for public comments on the original four dock applications?
We did, in impressive numbers.
The Province of BC initiated a public referral process in spring 2012. The Province has advised Stop The Docks that a “huge number of public letters” were received, and these concerns were conveyed to the relevant authority to which the concern was addressed (for example, local government, federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Transport Canada). Ordinarily, no or very few letters are received from the public on these matters.
It is unclear whether the Province gave any weight to the input received from the public, or simply referred it to other bodies for consideration in the referral process.
A Stop The Docks Freedom of Information request showed the extent of the public response to the first four dock applications: 56 letters in opposition, and 1 letter in support.
Stop The Docks strongly encourages Bowen Islanders to provide feedback to the Ministry on the two additional proposed docks. You can do so through stopthedocks.ca. The Ministry deadline is July 28.
Aren’t the proposed megadocks proven to have no environmental impact?
Aren’t they? No.
No independent environmental assessments were done to assess the impact of the proposed docks. The Province of BC did not commission or receive an independent review of the environmental impacts of the private docks at Cape Roger Curtis. Under the licensing process for these applications, neither Environment Canada, Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), BC Environment, nor Ecosystems FLNRO (Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations) reviewed or authorized the dock applications.
So what was done to assess environmental impact? The private owners submitted a dive study commissioned by them, which pointed to environmental concerns and recommended “best management practices” to “mitigate” against environmental impacts. The nature and enforcability of these “best management practices” for Cape Roger Curtis has not been defined by the Province of BC or by Bowen Municipality.
What should an Islander do if he or she is concerned about environmental impact? According to the Municipality, contact the consultants hired by the Cape on Bowen to register a complaint. If provincial or federal legislation is being contravened, contact the provincial or federal agency responsible for the legislation.
Mr. Keith Ashfield of Fisheries Oceans Canada (DFO) writes, “Should you become aware of suspicious activity or have concerns about impacts to fish or fish habitat, reports can be made directly to the toll-free 24-hour Observe, Record and Report line by calling 1-800-465-4336, or 604-607-4186 in Greater Vancouver.”
How do nearby municipalities and districts respond to private dock applications?
They say no.
West Vancouver has established a “dock-free” zone along the whole of its waterfront. North Vancouver is basically doing the same thing by advising the Port of Vancouver that private docks are contrary to the public interest in NV District. Belcarra currently has a moratorium on any private docks while they initiate zoning to prohibit private docks. Some jurisdictions prohibit private docks on public beaches. Other district and municipal jurisdictions on Vancouver Island and among the Gulf Islands have taken similar steps to protect important or sensitive foreshore areas. Still other jurisdictions have imposed limits on such things as the size of docks and floats and the use of breakwaters.
Many jurisdictions prohibit the construction of docks in sensitive areas (and to “grandfather” existing docks in those areas) by implementing new zoning bylaws or by creating new policies that influence and are adopted by the relevant provincial and federal agencies.
Frances Tang-Graham, communications advisor for Port Metro Vancouver, states: “There has been a moratorium on private recreational docks in Port Metro Vancouver since 2008. We are awaiting direction from Transport Canada on proposed policy changes to the recreational dock program, but we are not currently accepting applications for private recreational docks” (email communication, June 11, 2013).
Richard Walton, mayor of North Vancouver District, confirms: “The Port controls waterfront from Lions Gate Bridge up to the half way point up Indian Arm. They license but consult with us [NV District] and they have complied with our wishes for no more private docks. Splitting docks may be okay but no new incursions into public beach. West Van also doesn’t allow them” (email communication, May 19, 2013).
Isn’t the Cape private land?
Yes and no.
All beaches and foreshore areas below the high-tide mark, including Cape Roger Curtis, are public property on Bowen Island. In addition, the municipality has three parks at Cape Roger Curtis—at the lighthouse, Pebble Beach, and Arbutus Point—as well as right of way along the Cape Roger Curtis Seawalk linking the three parks.
These lands were dedicated to the municipality as part of a subdivision agreement in exchange for relaxing the statutory requirement for public access to the shoreline every 200 metres. The property owners do own the lands from the high-tide mark to their property-lot boundaries; however, starting at the high-tide mark, the first 30 metres of all of those ocean-fronting lands are covered by a “do not disturb” covenant that protects the natural landscape and sensitive waterfront ecosystems.
Also, when Bowen incorporated as a municipality, the province gave the municipality jurisdiction to regulate land use up to 300 metres off-shore.
For details, see the CRC plan, covenants, and statutory right-of-way documentation at http://www.bimbc.ca/current_topics?nnid=361#361
Isn’t it just a theory that the foreshore is public land?
No. It is a well-known fact, not a theory, that the foreshore is public land.
One government publication explains: “Foreshore is the land between the high- and low-water marks of streams, rivers, lakes, and the ocean. Aquatic Crown land is all the land, including the foreshore, from the high-water mark out to the limits of provincial jurisdiction. This includes all submerged land between the mainland to the east and Vancouver Island and the Queen Charlotte Islands to the west, as well as all submerged land within bays on the west coasts of these islands. In British Columbia, the Province owns nearly all freshwater and saltwater foreshore. Land adjacent to foreshore maybe privately owned, but in common law the public retains the privilege or ‘bare licence’ to access the foreshore.” Source: http://www.for.gov.bc.ca/land_tenures/tenure_programs/programs/privatemoorage/index.html .
Another source, this one for practising lawyers, states: “If the client is developing a project that will involve marina or dock facilities, promenades, riprap (that is, a foundation or sustaining wall to prevent erosion), or other shoreline works, foreshore leases may be relevant. Ownership of the foreshore is generally vested in the province of British Columbia. Notable exceptions are the seven British Columbia harbours of Victoria, Esquimalt, Nanaimo, Alberni, Burrard Inlet, New Westminster, and Prince Rupert, over which the federal government retains jurisdiction and dealings with the applicable port authority or harbour commission will be inevitable.” Source: Real Estate Development Practice Manual (Continuing Legal Education).
For additional details on ownership of the foreshore, as well as other relevant information about BC docks, see the Land Act, RSBC 1996, c. 245, s. 18, and http://www.obwb.ca/fileadmin/docs/riparian_regulations_BC_Gov.pdf .
Aren’t the proposed docks similar to others already built on Bowen?
No. The private megadocks at Cape Roger Curtis will be as long as 115 metres, exceeding the length of all public and private docks on Bowen Island, including the CNIB and Government docks.
At low tide these docks will tower almost 7 metres above water, almost as tall as a two-storey house.
Taken together, the docks will impede public access to and enjoyment of the public foreshore and three municipal parks at Cape Roger Curtis.
See “Where Will the Docks Go?” at http://stopthedocks.ca/docks-map/ .
These private megadocks are different from other island docks for a number of reasons. They are planned for the shallow beach and rock formations of the Cape. Some of the docks need to be extremely long to reach deep-enough water at low tide for the floats and boats to have sufficient water depth at all times.
The megadocks are also proposed in an area that is not protected from wave and tide elements. There are strong tidal currents at the Cape, and the location is fully exposed to incoming winds and waves. Other docks on Bowen Island are located (more wisely) in sheltered areas of bays and inlets. That is why the consultants who drafted these applications included multiple large floating breakwaters.
Why stop the docks? They’re too big, and they’re in the wrong place.
For these and other reasons, Stop The Docks is advocating No Docks at Cape Roger Curtis.
What is the best way to make sure we don’t face this issue again?
Bowen Municipal Council can exercise its right to amend the Land Use Bylaw.
It can create a specific land use zone prohibiting or regulating private docks on public beaches on Bowen. That would help ensure the protection of the public beaches and foreshore at Cape Roger Curtis. This step would also be consistent with the relevant objectives of the Official Community Plan.
Stop The Docks is asking Council to prohibit private docks at Cape Roger Curtis.