This collection of abandoned boats mere metres of Lillian Hoffar Park in North Saanich has bothering nearby residents as North Saanich council prepares to discuss a report dealing in part with the issue of abandoned and derelict boats in Tsehum Harbour. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

North Saanich council looks to navigate future of Tsehum Harbour

Report before council Monday will deal with abandoned boats in the area among other issues

The problem of derelict and abandoned boats in Tsehum Harbour will be among the issues as North Saanich council prepares to receive a detailed staff report about the area.

The report estimates more than “30 sunken boats” within Tsehum Harbour with Transport Canada removing two to five boats a year under its regulatory powers. The same report also points out that around 100 mooring buoys float within Tsehum Harbour, with the majority of buoys satisfying North Saanich’s existing zoning bylaw.

While the regulation of navigation and shipping falls exclusively within federal jurisdiction, court cases have confirmed that municipalities may regulate through zoning land use covered by navigable water. Specifically, the Community Charter gives municipalities the authority to regulate land covered by water up to 300 metres from the high water mark of municipal boundaries and the incorporation patent of North Saanich confirms that it includes the land covered by water to 300 metres from the high water mark.

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The question of derelict and abandoned boats has long vexed multiple communities in the Greater Victoria, prompting a number of initiatives. They include the creation of a five-year-long program in early 2017 designed to help local communities to clean up coastal waters. This said, the staff report to council notes that the initial funding set aside for the removal of abandoned boats has run out. The Capital Regional District (CRD) — which had contracted the Dead Boats Disposal Society — for the actual removal of the boats, has since asked the federal government to cover all (rather than just 75 per cent) of expenses.

The federal government has also adopted new legislation in 2019 that among other provisions hands out tougher penalties for abandoning boats and ups powers to deal with such vessels proactively. But the staff report notes that federal bureaucrats are still developing the necessary regulation.

Looking at the option before councillors, the report spells out several possible for North Saanich, when it comes to the harbour at large: further work with neighbouring Sidney about the feasibility of developing an integrated management plan; consider applying to the provincial government for a license of occupation of Tsehum Harbour, a move that could earn the municipality additional regulatory powers; develop a special zone and development permit area for the harbour as part of the Official Community Plan review; develop a stewardship initiative involving various partners; explore the possibility of joining a CRD program that leverages local resources; develop a policy for reciprocal referral processes with neighbouring jurisdictions for any development proposals within or bordering along Tsehum Habour; or table further actions until the CRD has developed a regional policy to sea level and the OCP review is complete.

The staff report noted among other points that Tsehum Harbour is one of the more vulnerable areas exposed to coastal flooding, according to a report from SNC Lavalin. The area also has a rich ecological diversity and archaeological past.


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