Derelict boats on the Gorge Waterway will soon be a sight of the past if the province agrees to give the City of Victoria jurisdiction over the area.
At a governance and priorities meeting today, council agreed to seek a 10-year licence of occupation from the B.C. government for the Gorge waterway northwest of the Selkirk trestle.
The scheme is borrowed from the District of West Kelowna to deal with derelict or polluting boats on Okanagan Lake.
“There needs to be proper facilities for protecting our marine environment. Ultimately what we’re saying is the Upper Gorge on the Vic West and Burnside-Gorge side is not the appropriate place to (permanently moor),” Mayor Dean Fortin told council and staff.
Some of the long-term anchored boats along the Upper Gorge have frustrated nearby residents, community associations and Gorge recreational users for years.
(Rower Eric Ages told the News he frequently saw human excrement in the surrounding waters in this 2013 interview.)
A complex division of government responsibility for the area has led to inaction: the province owns the seabed, while the Transport Canada oversees navigation, shipping and anchoring on the waterway.
While neither senior level of government has expressed interest in managing the issue, the province has recently indicated it would grant a licence of occupation so Victoria can take action.
“Unfortunately, because of the bad behaviour … of a few people, we have to have this conversation,” said Coun. Lisa Helps during discussion.
Once the city receives a licence of occupation (which is expected to take six to eight months), staff can then develop a project charter and enforce nominal rent fees to manage the area.
Fortin said the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations chiefs have given early support for the idea, though further consultation is required before moving ahead with a management plan.
Staff will also explore the possibility of using a partnership with the University of Victoria to monitor marine environments in Portage Inlet, which includes the Gorge waterway. The data would then be used to assess the need for long-term ecological protection in the area.
Read the staff report here.