President Gabe Epstein and the Gorge Tillicum Community Association are worried that without a proper oversight for the Gorge Waterway, the municipalities of Victoria and Saanich will be playing ‘whack-a-mole’ as people who live-aboard their boats will bounce between the Gorge’s different jurisdictions. Travis Paterson/News Staff

‘Gorge Waterway a jurisdictional whack-a-mole,’ says Gorge Tillicum president

Locals watch, wait to see how Victoria deals with Gorge derelicts

Residents along the Gorge Waterway are watching in anticipation to see if any of the boats that have been permanently anchored in Victoria’s waters will show up in the Saanich or Esquimalt end near Gorge Bridge.

The B.C. Supreme Court ruled in March that the City of Victoria has the authority to regulate the waterway. That ruling took effect on Monday, meaning it was the first day the City of Victoria could start evicting boats, such as the derelict vessels or live-aboards stationed in the Gorge near Vic West’s Banfield Park.

As of Wednesday the City of Victoria reported 10 boats remaining, including two which have been signed over to the city, said Victoria city clerk Chris Coates.

“Victoria continues to work with vessel owners to support them to remove their boat,” he said. “Any vessels that are not voluntarily removed will require further action through the courts.”

As well, at least one boat had relocated to the Saanich section of the Gorge Waterway between Curtis Point in Gorge Park and the Gorge Bridge (Tillicum Road). The arrival of the boat has president Gabe Epstein and members of the Gorge Tillicum Community Association waiting for a game of jurisdictional whack-a-mole as the owners of the live-aboards move between different areas.

Saanich Bylaw, for their part, has said they’ve opened an investigation regarding the matter. Saanich has a 72-hour maximum for mooring along the Gorge. It was brought in at about the same time Victoria moved to change its own bylaws to improve the management of the Gorge Waterway by limiting long-term mooring to a maximum of 48 hours and not more than 72 hours in a 30-day period.

“The concern is the problem shifts from one area to another when what we need is an overarching authority,” Epstein said, suggesting something like a Gorge Waterway conservation society that is empowered by local organizations and municipal, provincial and federal governments.

“What should be driving this is the needs of the waterway itself, and its ecosystems, rather than political situations. It should have an environmental ethos at the core of it and you can build around that.”

It would take a significant cultural shift in terms of the way we do government but it’s not insurmountable, Epstein added, pointing to the success of the Veins of Life Watershed Society.

“They worked with the multiple jurisdictions over the years and pulled things together, so it’s doable,” Epstein said.

It’s not just the boats, it’s also the private docks along the public shorelines which are non-permitted and which the City of Victoria has said it would like to remove.

“It’s a proliferation of docks that showed up when none were allowed,” said John Roe of the Veins of Life Watershed Society, which was behind the Gorge’s miraculous restoration in the 1990s.

“It’s a mess and it depends on which municipality, as there’s a few with tenure in Saanich, View Royal and maybe 10 or so in Victoria. But there’s been a proliferation, about 60 [without permit] and they lead to the loss of habitat.”

Carol Greenwood has lived in the area for 40 years and has seen pleasure usage of the Gorge grow beyond anything in the previous decades.

She says there’s more kayakers, outriggers, dragon boats, paddleboards and swimmers now than ever, dating back to the Gorge’s height as a recreation destination the 1920s. And yet there are still motorboats and overnight live-aboards dumping sewage and other waste directly into the Gorge, a highly sensitive ecosystem.

“I’d like to see all motorized [watercraft] banned from the Gorge,” Greenwood said. “We know the eel grass is crucial in the food chain, there is rare sea asparagus and all types of sensitive sea life that people don’t realize are in there.”

Roe, who lives a block from the Gorge, felt the CRD’s Gorge Waterway Initiative was supposed to be the oversight authority the region needed but has failed to come through.

He said there are only about three live-aboards currently and the rest are non-seaworthy boats.

“It’s sad there isn’t marina [space] for them,” Roe said. “Historically there was but over time the people coming into the community have more money and they pay for the marina space, pushing these boats out.”

While the City of Victoria and Pacifica Housing have attempted to find accommodation for those who are living aboard a boat in the Banfield area of the Gorge, Roe said the remaining few will likely refuse.

“I’ve tried, I’ve talked to them. We tried to reach out with the Veins of Life Watershed. It’s said but it’s their own demise if they want to stay.”

As for the docks, Roe blames the ‘home-and-garden’ syndrome, the ‘perfect little lakefront cottage’ with trimmed grass and bare waterfronts.

”Saanich has a no-dock bylaw, and it’s not just that, every tiny bit of brush that overhangs along the water is a key part of the ecosystem, that’s where the fish collect and feed, but homeowners need it removed for the view and it’s not right,’ Roe said.

reporter@saanichnews.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The coroner on scene of a workplace fatality in Oak Bay on Oct. 20, 2020. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
UPDATED: Dangerous branches delay removal of body in Oak Bay workplace death

Traffic restricted on McNeill Avenue near Byng Road

(Black Press Media file photo)
Be prepared: Know what to do in the event of a Greater Victoria tsunami warning

Localized alert systems can provide potentially life-saving information

A mature Garry oak fell onto Richmond Road on Oct. 13 near Camosun College Lansdowne campus. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
Garry oak crashes down onto Richmond Road

Saanich responded to 59 tree-related calls

The Kildonan mansion at 931 Foul Bay Rd. is part of the Oak Bay heritage registry. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Oak Bay declines Kildonan House permissive tax exemption

Council briefs include new transformer for Oak Bay Rec., strata policy

The Better Business Bureau is warning people of scammers posing as Amazon customer support. (AP File Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Watch out for Amazon imposters, says scam expert

Better Business Bureau is warning of a rise in Amazon scammers as people online shop more

Jamie Lee Hellard, a.k.a. the ‘chalk fairy,’ poses with one of her custom chalk drawings. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
VIDEO: Victoria chalk fairy brings smiles to kids with cancer

Jamie Lee Hellard surprises pediatric cancer patients with custom chalk drawings on their birthdays

Advance polls are open from Oct. 15 to 21 with election day on Oct. 24. (Black Press Media file photo)
Bernard Trest and his son Max, 10, are concerned about B.C.’s plan for students in the classroom. He was one of two fathers who filed a court application in August to prevent schools from reopening if stricter COVID-19 protections weren’t in place. That application was dismissed last week. (Contributed photo)
B.C. dad pledges to appeal quashed call for mandatory masks, distancing in schools

Bernard Trest and Gary Shuster challenged health, education ministries’ return-to-school plan

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
RCMP cleared in fatal shooting of armed Lytton man in distress, police watchdog finds

IIO spoke to seven civillian witnesses and 11 police officers in coming to its decision

A 34-year-old man was treated for a gunshot wound in Williams Lake Monday, Oct 19, 2020. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Williams Lake man treated for gunshot wound after accidental shooting: RCMP

Police are reminding residents to ensure firearms are not loaded when handling them

A injection kit is seen inside the newly opened Fraser Health supervised consumption site is pictured in Surrey, B.C., Tuesday, June 6, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. records 127 fatal overdoses in September, roughly 4 each day

Vancouver, Surrey and Victoria continued to see the highest numbers of overdoses

Investigators work at the Sagmoen farm in Silver Creek. - Image credit: Observer file photo.
Sex workers allegedly called to farm of Okanagan man convicted of assault, RCMP investigating

Curtis Sagmoen, convicted in relation to assault of sex trade workers, is prohibited from soliciting escorts

(Black Press Media files)
Early voters more likely to favour NDP, but overall B.C. election is tightening: poll

According to Elections BC, 383,477 people cast a ballot during advanced voting days

(Pixabay)
Wave of racist emails ‘unleashed’ on B.C. researchers investigating racism in health care

The team has received close to 600 calls and emails since the investigation started in July

Most Read