B.C. signals extension on harbour construction ban

Regional director wants individual reviews instead of blanket ban

A 10-year extension to an existing moratorium on construction in Sooke harbour and basin has drawn criticism from Juan de Fuca Electoral Area director Mike Hicks.

The moratorium would continue guidelines put in place in 2012 to improve water quality and develop management strategies to enhance shellfish aquaculture and traditional shellfish harvesting.

The moratorium put an end to float and wharf construction on the foreshore for five years.

Hicks received notice of the moratorium extension last week from Mark Harvey, land officer with B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. Harvey was unable to respond to questions before the Sooke News Mirror’s deadline.

In an Oct. 27 letter to Harvey, Hicks said he was “extremely disappointed” by the 10-year extension regarding the designated use area.

“East Sooke property owners fronting the Sooke basin and harbour have been severely impacted by the closure,” Hicks wrote. “There are no commercial wharves in East Sooke and construction of existing and new residential floats have stopped due the five-year ban.”

Hicks is calling for applications to be dealt with individually, as opposed to a blanket ban.

Hicks and former Sooke mayor Wendal Milne met with the provincial department in 2012 and said they supported the original five-year period. Hicks said they understood the need to support the T-sou-ke First Nation and their efforts to harvest and grow shellfish, and the need to study the cumulative effects of pollution caused by marine wharves, piles, vessels and their impact on marine life and shellfish in the area.

At that time, however, Hicks asked the department to consider float and wharf construction that did not include creosote, Styrofoam or treated lumber on a case by case basis. “To my knowledge, none of these conditions for our support were met,” Hicks said in his letter.

He takes issue with the moratorium extension stating that persons considering making application within the designated areas must contact Natural Resource Operations to determine if the proposed land uses are compatible. Hicks said that indicates it is unlikely that proposals involving activities such as pile driving, placing of fill, seawalls, piers, floating docks, marinas, boat ramps will be deemed compatible.

“We would ask again that you be flexible, on a case by case basis and allow the construction and repair of existing and new floats for residential properties in Sooke,” Hicks requested.

“With sensible and environmentally friendly building practices and materials, I am confident we can carry on the marine tradition of the Sooke Basin and harbour while preserving the shellfish habitat.

Hicks also suggested having the ministry and the T’sou-ke First Nation work together with the Capital Regional District and the Juan de Fuca regional district’s building inspection and planning departments to devise a working, enforceable building marine code for East Sooke residential floats and approaches that would be compatible with the provincial government’s goals.

Sooke Mayor Maja Tait said it wasn’t possible to comment at this time because council hasn’t had the opportunity to look at the decision in detail.

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