Articles in consecutive editions of the PNR (Wednesday, July 24 and Friday, July 26) refer to concerns with the Town of Sidney’s approval of new sea wall construction on All Bay Road within Roberts Bay. The July 26 article (Seawall construction goes ahead) refers to Friends of Shoal Harbour, an organization unfamiliar to many.
In 2010, following a recommendation in the 2008 Marine Task Force Final Report, a joint municipally-led Sidney/North Saanich initiative was proposed in order to research an integrated plan for Shoal Harbour. The plan recognized the value of the 1931 Migratory Bird Sanctuary (Shoal Harbour and Roberts Bay) and the public interest in a beautiful foreshore and the needs of a vibrant marine industry.
After initial meetings the Town of Sidney withdrew its support and the municipally-led initiative stalled. Some of the citizen-participants in the original initiative feel that a plan as described above is very much worth pursuing and have come together in a non-profit society incorporated under the B.C. Societies Act with the name Friends of Shoal Harbour Society.
In researching how an integrated plan could be brought forward, Friends of Shoal Harbour Society was assisted by the Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Victoria.
Their exhaustive research led to a report describing all the many overlapping jurisdictions, regulations etc. claimed by Federal and Provincial agencies regarding the near shore environment and harbours in particular.
In this grand tangle one thing is clear, without active leadership at the municipal level and support from residents, no effective plan will result.
This conclusion was confirmed by the ruckus over the sea wall construction in Roberts Bay. None of the federal or provincial agencies with oversight on such matters ventured an opinion when informed. Friends of Shoal Harbour feel that had an effective, publicly-supported municipal plan been in place, the owners of the Roberts Bay property would have been guided to a solution that met their needs while better maintaining the environmental and aesthetic value of the site.
As part of the annual celebration of the return of the Bufflehead ducks to their winter quarters on Roberts Bay and Patricia Bay, Friends of Shoal Harbour will be hosting a public symposium on Oct. 19 at the Mary Winspear Centre.
The event will be an opportunity to learn about the organization and contribute ideas as to how we can live respectfully and in balance with our natural surroundings.
Chair, Friends of Shoal Harbour Society