Safe navigational channel on the way for Cowichan Bay

Boaters will find some changes in the near future if they are planning an outing in Cowichan Bay.

Boaters will find some changes in the near future if they are planning an outing in Cowichan Bay.

According to the community’s area director, Lori Iannidinardo, four years of hard work have been crowned by a new rule called the Vessel Operated Restriction Regulation (VORR).

Ten agencies, including such diverse players as the RCMP, the BC Wildlife Federation, the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Cowichan Tribes have been working together to come up with a model to stop motor boats from entering the eelgrass area in Cowichan Bay, she said.

“Now we have the VORR, but that’s not all. We are also putting in a safe navigational channel. Transport Canada, another one of the agencies, actually has the regulatory authority over this. It’ll be from the boat launch all the way around the outside of the marina so there’s enough space for safe passage for two boats.”

There have been problems, she said.

“Boaters have been having a terrible time with all the boats in the area that are anchored. Now, with this, they actually have to move out of the navigation channel. It will displace some people, but it will make a difference,” she said.

“This VORR will mean no motor boats in and around the kayaking place because the motors actually chew up the eel grass. That is a protection area, except for First Nations for food and culture; they don’t have the same restrictions.”

But the four years of efforts have seen even more cooperation among the groups.

“Also, because no one has funding any more, we decided, through the Cowichan Stewardship Roundtable, to put our heads together to see what model we could come up with that would see everybody working on this off the sides of their desks. We decided on a way to manage to do this. I think it’s a model that’s going to have to be used in more and more situations instead of everyone saying: ‘It’s your job, your job, your job’ all down the line. I think we have to be creative and come up with these things. It did take us four years to do that,” she said.

Now, however, the project faces a new challenge, according to Iannidinardo.

“We now have to pay for the Transport Canada buoys. I didn’t know or expect that. So, we have to do fundraising to get these buoys in place. We’re just putting our heads together right now on that. We’ve been working on what we’d like to see down there but now we have to go into fundraising mode.

“The CVRD South Cowichan parks department has contributed $2,000 but [we] don’t know how many buoys that will get us. We’re still researching how many we need, how far they have to be spaced apart: all that. It looks like it’s going to be a big job.

“So, it will be another little while before they are in place. But, we are very proud that we received the Transport Canada stamp of approval for the idea. It’s a successful model that people can now see [and copy].”

Iannidinardo, like many politicians, frequently hears negative comments.

“People will say: ‘It’s not my jurisdiction.’ I think this is so positive and everyone was so fabulous working on this. It was a really good experience for me,” she said.