Saanich could host Canada’s national training centre for rowers like Caileigh Filmer and Hillary Janssens, 2018 world champions in the women’s coxless pair, but blue-green algae on Elk/Beaver Lake could sink these plans. (Rowing Canada/Merijn Soeters)

Environmental concerns could sink Saanich’s bid to host Rowing Canada’s national training centre

Saanich is one of five communities in the running with Rowing Canada silent about competition

Saanich could learn as early as next month whether it will host Rowing Canada Aviron’s national training centre.

Jennifer Walinga, chair of the committee tasked with choosing the national training site, said in an October update that it will make a recommendation to the association’s board of directors by the end of November with the board rendering a final decision in December. Rowing Canada has scheduled a formal announcement for January 2019.

Walinga outlined this timeline after her committee reviewed all five submissions and conducted site visits.

Rowing Canada plans to establish a primary national training centre by October 2020, and Saanich is one of five communities competing for said centre.

Notably, Rowing Canada is running on silent when it comes to releasing even the names of Saanich’s competitors, never mind any details.

RELATED: Blue-green algae blooms could sink bid to host national rowing centre in Saanich

“We are not in a position to be able to offer additional information around specific sites as the process is still ongoing,” said Colleen Coderre, communications lead for Rowing Canada Aviron.

She later added that local site committees had requested confidentiality.

Should Rowing Canada Aviron favour the bid from the Victoria City Rowing Club (VCRC), Saanich would host the centre until at least 2032.

But a number of environmental and regulatory concerns could sink the bid as Rowing Canada has expressed concern with weed growth on Elk/Beaver Lake.

That body of water has a history of blue-green algae blooms, whose frequency has increased in recent years, according to a report from the Capital Regional District (CRD).

“More targeted weed removal may be required to ensure the larger 2 km course remains free of weed growth,” it reads.

Regional authorities currently operate a weed harvester, which the report claims “has been effective in controlling weed growth.”

RELATED: Saanich’s Elk/Beaver Lake to undergo remediation

But the environmental state of Elk/Beaver Lake caught the attention of Rowing Canada Aviron, as the region stands to lose a yet-to-be-determined amount of additional spending in the form of salaries, programming, athlete support and operations. A recent report recently warned of this very scenario.

Other obstacles remain. If the VCRC were to receive the winning bid, it may end up expanding its current facilities by at least 25 per cent. Such a revision would require public consultation and changes to the Elk/Beaver Lake management. It calls for a range of uses and public feedback has so far not gone beyond local representatives of the fishing community.


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Blue-green algae on Elk/Beaver Lakes. Photo taken in 2013. (Black Press file photo)

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