There are a lot of misconceptions and misinformation about this marina development particularly because the developer has provided inadequate and sometimes conflicting detail on the proposed plan. We have attempted to gather information on some of the key areas of concern.
MYTH: "THERE ARE NO SAFETY CONCERNS WITH A MARINA IN THIS LOCATION"
There are numerous safety concerns with this large marina in such a small and busy harbour.
The marina occupies space that provides safety manouvering room for seaplanes. Incidents have been observed where planes have landed north of Pelly Island or could have crashed into a marina in the proposed location.
Kayak and other boat users are extremely concerned about being forced to navigate in a very narrow channel between the wave attenuator and the float plane taxiway or in a narrow channel with limited headroom under the buildings.
With a marina on the north shore of the harbour incidents where boats cross the runway unexpectedly are bound to become frequent. One such incident occured in April when there was visible kayak & outrigger activity in the water and crowds along the shore.
Additionally, with float planes, large and small ferries, and commercial boats using the harbour, as well as numerous other recreational boaters, there is a lot of traffic already in the harbour. The size of this marina in this location creates concerns for the safety of all users of the harbour, especially if mega yachts are entering and leaving the marina.
MYTH: "WAVE ATTENUATION STUDIES DONE BY DEVELOPER SHOW THAT WAVE HEIGHT REFLECTED BY ATTENUATOR WILL BE NO GREATER THAN 7cm."
The location proposed for the marina is the most exposed area on the harbour, being subjected, summer and winter, to frequent gale force (70-90 km/hr) winds and large waves. Consequently, the developer proposes to place a floating wave attenuator around the outer perimeter. A wave attenuator can be visualized as a hollow concrete (or other solid material) box with a hole in the bottom. When in place, much of the box is filled with water that cannot easily escape. When a wave reaches the attenuator, some of its energy is dissipated through interaction with the water-filled box, some is reflected off the front face of the attenuator and the balance passes through to the other side. In other words, the wave attenuator will calm the waters inside the marina but for the area outside the marina incoming waves will be reflected off the wall and into the harbour. Because he found the developer's claims " that reflected waves would be no greater than 7 cm and have negligible effect " to be questionable, Professor Gordon Greeniaus, a professional physicist and teacher in wave motion theory, researched the probable wave reflection characteristics of breakwaters similar to what has been proposed. His review raises several concerns and questions about the interpretation of the developer's claims about the effect of the wave attenuator. In a Sept 2009 letter he wrote to Ron Cantelon, Minister of Agriculture and Lands, he wrote "The effect of the reflected waves, even under calmer conditions, would be felt more seriously close to the breakwater. The increased choppiness of the water could easily pose significant problems for boaters and kayakers who might be using the proposed path between the marina and the seaplane runway." The developer's calculations show that choppiness of the water will increase by 30% and this is probably an underestimate. This is not a negligible increase for most boaters. In windy conditions, the reflected waves from the proposed wave attenuator would be higher and could create chaotic sea conditions in the centre of the harbour, raising additional concerns about the safety of seaplane operations in this area.
In looking at other potential impacts of reflective waves moving out towards the centre of the harbour, Professor Greeniaus states, "The orientation of the marina is such that waves coming into the harbour from the Strait of Juan de Fuca will tend to be reflected directly towards Fisherman's Wharf. In extreme wave conditions with south winds, Fisherman's Wharf could see waves of 20 cm or more under situations when they otherwise might have had rather calm water." Although this is probably a worst case estimate, the houseboats in Fisherman's Wharf and all other users of docks on the south side of the harbour should be concerned about possible increased wave action. The developer has not demonstrated that wave reflections from the marina breakwater will have no effect on the south shore of the harbour. At the very least, a more complete study with proper simulations needs to be done to address these concerns, and a thorough assessment by independent experts of potential impacts due to this attenuation wall is necessary before any decision is made.
MYTH: "CONCERNS OF PADDLERS & KAYAKERS HAVE BEEN ADDRESSED. THEY WILL BE ABLE TO TRAVEL THROUGH THE MARINA"
The concerns of the Paddlers have not been dealt with. Under the Navigable Waters Protection Act, they now have access to unimpeded, safe navigation in the harbour. The north side of the harbour, where this marina is proposed, is the only area permitted for non-powered vessels. The developer has proposed that these non-motorized boats either travel through the marina when traffic permits or around the outside of the marina in a lane that narrows to 7 meters at one point between the wave attenuator and the float plane taxiway. Both routes raise access and safety concerns. Small vessels traveling through a confined space with large yachts pulling in or backing out poses many issues for paddlers. Some non-motorized boats will simply not be physically able to maneuver through the marina along the proposed route. The boats which will be forced into the narrow channel adjacent to the float plane taxiway are at risk from waves reflecting off the wave attenuator, particularly under adverse water or wind conditions. Letter from Kris Terauds, with comment on proposed routes. The right to public access and safe navigation for the thousands of paddlers and recreational boat users who use this harbour throughout the year would be significantly impacted if this marina is built.
MYTH: "THE MARINA WILL ENHANCE PUBLIC ACCESS TO THE WATER AND PUBLIC WALKWAYS"
Other mega yacht marinas in the Caribbean and elsewhere normally have security on site restricting public access. It is reasonable to assume that this marina would also want to establish a security barrier to protect the multimillion-dollar yachts. The only access and views the developer mentions on their web site is from the restaurant or coffee house. The West Song Walkway is enjoyed by thousand of residents and visitors alike who now enjoy harbour views and a host of wildlife along this shoreline park. This 6 1/2 acre marina for boats over 65 feet long and 20 feet in height with a restaurant, café and other support infrastructure would stretch from the entrance to Lime Bay almost to the Marinerís Landing harbour ferry dock. What views and access to the harbour will be left for the public?
MYTH: "THE MARINA WILL NOT HAVE A NEGATIVE IMPACT ON THE ENVIRONMENT"
The 2007 and 2008 environmental assessment reports submitted by the Developer were reviewed by a qualified environmental specialist. He found these reports to be lacking in important information and in providing adequate measures to mitigate potential impacts. Some of the key deficiencies he highlighted were:
Inadequate mitigation measures and assessment impacts on fish habitat.
Lack of information on wave reflection and attenuation by the proposed floating breakwater.
Questionable methods used to assess habitat gain and loss. For example, the report claims that the underside of the floating breakwater will offset the losses of seabed vegetation due to shading caused by the floating breakwater. It is very difficult to understand how the very thing that causes the problem is the same thing that provides the mitigating solution.
Dredging for the marina basin and navigation channel is anticipated to require the removal of material from the harbour seabed at a volume equivalent to about 4,500 truckloads . According to the environmental specialist who reviewed the reports, this dredging project would likely exceed the volume of any dredge project in Victoria Harbour over the past 25 years. Transport Canada's decision not to include a public consultation process in the environmental screening assessment, has given the public limited opportunity for input. Brian Emmett's Report
Lime Bay is home to large varieties of birds and the Songhees shoreline is frequented year-round by otters, harbour seals, oystercatchers, herons, and other wildlife. Not only will wildlife be impacted by vessel wake and traffic but they will also be displaced as the marina will cover much of the area now frequented by wildlife. The biologist answering questions at the Developer's Open House acknowledged that the waterfowl and birds currently in the area where the marina is proposed would no longer be there, but that they could still be seen over at Fisherman's Wharf.
MYTH: "THERE HAS BEEN LOTS OF PUBLIC INFORMATION ABOUT THIS MARINA AND OPPORTUNITY TO HAVE YOUR SAY"
One of the main concerns is the lack of public information on this mega yacht marina. There has been no process for public consultation, and little or no opportunity for the public to make their views known before decisions are made. On April 2nd, Victoria MP, Denise Savoie, met with Transport Canada Minister John Baird and secured a commitment from him to hold a public meeting in Victoria and for Transport Canada to meet with the City and the Province on this matter. The Province has not indicated interest in calling any public meetings and appear to be basing their decision on the environmental assessment from Transport Canada.
The Province has an obligation to ensure that any decision to lease public water space must be made with full public accountability and transparency and that any social, economic and environmental impacts are to the benefit of the public. Crown Land Allocation principles.
The City has indicated that it is only responsible for the development permit and has made no commitment for a public process. All levels of government have a responsibility for protecting the public interest in the harbour and to conduct their review in an open, transparent public process.
MYTH: "THE MEGA YACHT MARINA WILL BRING MILLIONS OF DOLLARS INTO VICTORIA"
No economic impact study that we are aware of has been done to support this development proposal and yet the claim on the developer's web site states that each mega yacht spends an average of $2.5 million on operations annually and upwards of $5 million if the vessel is also in the charter business. The pie chart on the web site shows the total labour cost to be $1 million of that $2.5 million. According to the developer's current plans, the average size boat in this proposed marina is about 85 feet. In an attempt to evaluate the financial numbers presented by the proponent, we consulted with an owner of a 97 foot yacht. He advised us that his annual costs, excluding fuel, are only $250,000; a far cry from $2.5 million. A number of questions arise in evaluating the economic benefit to Victoria:
How many of the crew would be local and therefore spend money and pay taxes in the community?
Are these mega yacht owners really going to fill their huge fuel tanks locally or just go across the strait and buy it at a lower cost?
Would financing, marketing, chartering and insurance (all included in the $2.5 million operational costs claimed by developer) be bought locally, or sourced on world markets?
This would leave very little, other than a dinner provisions for a cruise in the Gulf Islands, to be purchased locally. This would mean, however, that they are leaving Victoria and spending elsewhere. Given our short cruising season of about 4 months, it would be reasonable to assume that any real economic benefit to Victoria would be very small and not of the magnitude suggested on their web site. Decision makers should be asking for a more thorough benefit study and authenticity thereof before giving up this priceless public asset. The development of public space for private interests should demand a higher level of transparency, than does the development of private lands, with the burden of minimizing the negative impact on current users of that public space.
MYTH: "ONLY THE PEOPLE IN THE SONGHEES AREA ARE OPPOSED TO THIS MARINA. ISN'T THIS JUST A CASE OF NIMBY-ism?"
People from all over the region have concerns about the size of a mega yacht marina in this location. With no public process for review of this development application, there have been few outlets for them to express their opposition and concern. The only public meeting on this issue, hosted by Denise Savoie, Victoria MP, and the Vic West Community Association on February 17th, attracted over 350 people from all over greater Victoria. Many people came out after reading the developer's ad in the paper announcing the marina and indicating they had most of the approvals to proceed. For most people there, it was the first time they had heard of this marina. People from all over the Region are concerned about the impact this marina could have on the harbour.
MYTH: "IT'S A DONE DEAL - 90% OF APPROVALS ARE IN"
It is not a done deal. The public is confused about the status of this project due to the mixed messages that the Developers have been giving. In different contexts they have been saying that (a) 'no approvals have been given'; (b) "90% of the approvals are in"; and (c) and "Verbal Approvals have been received". The fact is that NO approvals have been given and this has been confirmed with the Federal Government, and the Province of British Columbia, In fact, the City just received the application for a Development Permit the 3rd week of March and it has not been yet been addressed.
MYTH: "THE CITY PAID OUT SEVERAL MILLIONS OF DOLLARS IN COMPENSATION FOR DOWNSIZING THE WATER LOTS FROM 3 STORIES TO 1 STORY"
The Developer (PNI) sued the City unsuccessfully for Breach of Contract, but was successful in its claim for 'unjust enrichment'. The court ruled that some specific amenities that the Developer was required to install on the site were more than the City could legally require under the legislation (i.e. walkway, seawall, roads and parkland). The cost of these additional amenities was $1.08 million and since the City got the benefit of these amenities, which they did not expect to get for nothing, they were required to reimburse the Developer his cost of $1.08 million. (Ref: Supreme Court Decision).
MYTH: "THE MEGA YACHT MARINA LOCATION IS IDEAL AND WILL BE A HUGE SUCCESS"
The proposed site for the marina is problematic. The site is in the middle of a park in a residential area on a unique waterfront that is home to marine mammals and waterfowl. Furthermore, adjacent to the floatplane landing area and overtaking their taxiway, and all but eliminating a passage for kayaks and other non-power boats hardly seems like an ideal location. If, in fact there is a huge new industry on our doorstep waiting to be welcomed, planning needs to occur to place it in the right location. Another key concern is the possible failure of a mega yacht marina in this location. The prospect of derelict facilities in this unique setting, or using facilities for moorage for large fishing vessels is horrifying. Regardless of whether or not other locations are vying for this proposed mega yacht marina, there are strong reasons to question whether Victoria harbour is the right place to locate it.
Updated: 7 July 2011