EDITORIAL: Caretakers, town at a loss

A new sea wall is making waves in Roberts Bay in Sidney

A new sea wall is making waves in Roberts Bay in Sidney — not the gentle, lapping waves that lull you to sleep, but crashing waves that are doomed to break against concrete and rock.

There are questions being levelled at town council over its approval of a poured-concrete wall — from its own policy on the matter right down to the definition of “natural boundary” as it applies to one of the Pacific’s oldest migratory bird sanctuaries. A caretaker of the sanctuary is understandably upset at the loss of habitat in this wildlife area — a continuing issue in the bay where there are many sea walls.

At odds with this are private property rights and the balancing act the local municipal council has to perform as a result.

Yet, the only party that appears to win in this case is the property owner who got to complete their sea wall.

Caretakers of the sanctuary have lost natural habitat to the construction in Roberts Bay. While that plant life was apparently located on private property, groups like the Friends of Shoal Harbour, try to work with owners and municipalities to raise awareness about the benefits of habitat to migratory birds and other wildlife around the Peninsula. Their battle to maintain a place for wildlife just got a little harder, yet there are early signs that more consultation with the community is in the works.

The Town of Sidney, in the eyes of local conservationists, lost credibility when it comes to protecting the area’s natural environment. There will be efforts ahead to repair those relationships and perhaps even work towards a better plan to manage both human and animal cohabitation.

Any effort to better protect the natural environment around a community that continues to grow will be left up to community groups and, ultimately, the Town and its citizens.

The government bodies who actually have the responsibility for areas like the sanctuary (such as Environment Canada and the B.C. ministry of forestry, lands and natural areas) are saying if development is on private property, it’s up to the municipality to regulate it as it sees fit.

If environmentally-sensitive areas are valued by the Town of Sidney, they may be asked to  step up and prove it.