The Orcas Return

09-13-13 Whale 1

Orcas spotted on Sept. 13, 2013. These photographs show a pod of orcas playing, feeding, and nursing a baby orca in the waters immediately off the Cape Roger Curtis lighthouse. The dock at Lot 13 is visible in the background. One of the six proposed private docks (Lot 15) has been granted a water licence tenure that extends over 100 metres into this orca habitat.

For the past six months, our community has dedicated a lot of attention to the issue of private docks and their impacts at Cape Roger Curtis. The design of appropriate bylaws to regulate private docks has implications for all of Bowen Island; however, the public interests at Cape Roger Curtis are of paramount concern. Why is this?

For decades, we’ve been drawn to the Cape and enjoyed countless hours in the embrace of its beauty and wildness. The Cape’s exceptional (and unique) natural features are well documented and impressive — mature second-growth forests, a wild coastline, natural tide-pools, and unspoiled beaches.

The Cape’s habitat values are impressive — the pull and rip of tidal currents at the nexus of Georgia Strait and Howe Sound provide a rich nutrient source to attract sea mammals (whales, sea lions, seals, dolphins, and porpoises), sea birds, eagles, and an incredible diversity of undersea life. Close by are the rare and globally recognized glass sponge reefs. All this at Bowen’s land’s end.

Will massive private docks drive the orcas away?

Will massive private docks drive the orcas away?

In addition to its unique marine features, the Cape also supports rare and endangered plants and animals on the lands and bluffs facing the sea. The first documented efforts to conserve the natural values of the Cape date back to the 1920s. While many tried to save the Cape, the private developers ultimately determined to go ahead with subdivision of the lands into 59 ten-acre lots.

In 2009, the municipality, in exchange for relaxing the subdivision requirements for water access points, negotiated public ownership of the three best recreational areas (the Lighthouse, Pebble Beach, and Arbutus Point) and construction of a shoreline trail to connect them. In addition, the municipality required a covenant on the entire Cape waterfront to keep a 30-metre buffer of lands and other sensitive areas on the property in their natural state.

In 2012, Bowen Council and the province allowed the Cape owners to construct private docks at these sensitive habitat and high public-use areas. To date, only the dock at Lot 13 has been built.

It’s not too late for Bowen Council to protect the Cape shoreline.

For many, the waters and adjoining lands at Cape Roger Curtis are considered truly a sacred place. It's a place of nature, beauty, play, nurturing, healing, creativity, wonder, meditation -- sacred.

For many, the waters and adjoining lands at Cape Roger Curtis are considered truly a sacred place. It’s a place of nature, beauty, play, nurturing, healing, creativity, wonder, meditation — sacred.

At the entrance to North America’s southernmost fjord, we can create a waterfront sanctuary for orcas and other marine and terrestrial life. Generations to follow will celebrate our success or mourn our failure.

Please add your voice. Now is the time to speak out to protect the public shores at Cape Roger Curtis.

Please attend the public hearing on the docks bylaw, Tues., Nov. 12, 6:15 p.m., Municipal Hall, 981 Artisan Lane.

 

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