Victoria eyes solution to Selkirk waterway dilemma

Moored boats in waterway creating jurisdictional quagmire between the three levels of government

Permanently moored boats in the Selkirk waterway will be under council’s microscope this fall, as the provincial government and City of Victoria meet to tackle the issue.

In September, Mayor Dean Fortin and city staff will meet with Steve Thomson, the provincial minister responsible for the sea bed north of Selkirk trestle.

A meeting has yet to be confirmed with federal government officials, who are responsible for navigable water regulations and marine habitat in the Gorge.

“You don’t want to end up with a situation where municipalities start to take on costs that are frankly the responsibility of senior levels of government,” Fortin said.

About a dozen boaters are currently anchored off the shores of Banfield Park, taking advantage of a jurisdictional quagmire between the three levels of government.

The city is weary about taking on regulation and clean-up costs for abandoned boats, but council is nonetheless directing staff to clarify what, if anything, can be done.

“It’s really important for the city get to the table as an equal player as part of the conversation but the city can’t take this issue on by itself,” said Coun. Lisa Helps.

Members of the Vic West Community Association have been waiting a long time for officials to take action, said president Diane Carr.

“This is not a homeless issue,” she said. “Some people are trying to make it that and it’s not.”

Carr said the Selkirk waterway should be subject to the same regulations as a public park and that overnight moorage should be banned like overnight camping.

“The area is the commons, it’s like Beacon Hill Park, and it should be treated as such,” she said. “If the province isn’t going to enforce anything, somebody has to do something about this. A couple of stiff fines from the city and nobody will go in there anymore.”

Fortin said he looks forward to a productive meeting with Thomson, but ruled out the possibility of an outright ban on moorage.

“You can’t prohibit (boats from mooring),” he said. “All you can do is regulate them.”

Staff will report back to council on the provincial and federal consultations before any action is taken, said Rob Woodland, director of legislative and regulatory services.