Plan seeks to protect coast seabed

Proposed national marine conservation area reserve to restrict resource exploration

A proposed conservation area off the coast of the Saanich Peninsula would serve to protect the seabed from resource exploration.

Wayne Bourque, superintendant of the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve, and Brett Hudson, senior planner for the Ministry of Environment, made a presentation at the District of North Saanich committee of the whole meeting Oct. 22.

Their presentation was about a proposed national marine conservation area reserve that would encompass sections of the shore off the Saanich Peninsula as well as a large area in the Strait of Georgia.

The conservation area would essentially protect the seabed from the exploration and development of non-renewable resources such as oil and gas and mining.

According to Bourque, the conservation area has been in the works for about 10 years but has faced concerns from municipalities and first nations about foreshore zoning and exclusion of areas important to socioeconomic development like ferry terminals and log boom areas.

“We’ve heard that some first nations feel that excluding areas like ferry terminals isn’t addressing problems that the (conservation area) should,” said Hudson.

Bourque assured the district council that the word ‘use’ was key in the conservation area’s mandate, but the proposal still garnered questions from the public, especially those who own waterfront land.

“I’ve lost all my rights,” said Bob Johnson, a North Saanich waterfront resident. “I can’t touch the trees on my private property and now I can’t touch the seawall. I thought I owned something and I don’t own a damn thing.”