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Ladner residents want to dump Port Metro Vancouver

Port Metro Vancouver does little for float home residents and marina tenants, aside from cashing their cheques, say critics.  - South Delta Leader file
Port Metro Vancouver does little for float home residents and marina tenants, aside from cashing their cheques, say critics.
— image credit: South Delta Leader file

Ladner residents facing huge lease rate increases on float homes and marinas want to dump the Port Metro Vancouver (PMV), and take control of their own waterway.

While PMV collects the money, people in Ladner says they don't do much else.

"Dredging was supposed to be their responsibility but I don't know what happened there," said Harvey Gifford, chair of the Ladner Harbour Fishers' Committee, which is the advisory body to Delta, the harbour authority.

He's also a member of the Downtown Ladner Waterfront Redevelopment Advisory Committee, which has been trying to get the harbour dredged without success.

"Everybody's fed up with [PMV]. Some people are getting increases of 100 per cent, 200 per cent, 400 per cent, and you get nothing for it."

PMV has put in $2 million for dredging, and Delta has matched, but $4 million is still needed from senior levels of government to properly dredge the river.

Ladner harbour's fishing boats currently pay the Ladner Harbour Authority (LHA) for moorage, but the water lot lease rates are set by PMV in a sublease agreement with the province.

One idea currently being floated is to create a new local port authority that extends all the way down Ladner Reaches and negotiate those leases into the LHA (or whatever the new name would be), similar to what happens in Richmond.

"Many years ago, Steveston Harbour became a harbour authority that actually bought the water leases from the Fraser Authority at the time," said Coun. Bruce McDonald.

Steveston manages the leases and sets and collects the rents, which makes them accountable at a local level. They can also focus more on local issues, such as dredging.

Mike Owen, manager of Ladner Reach Marina, said Ladner might run better on a model like Steveston's.

He wants to incorporate the submerged provincial crown lands in Deas Slough, Canoe Pass, Sea Reach, and Ladner Reach, into the LHA.

That would mean Owen would no longer have to pay PMV, instead writing his lease cheques directly to the LHA, which would have its own agreement with the province.

"[PMV] has made a statement they don't want to do any dredging or put any money out where there's not commercially viable lands for them to deal with," said Owen. "And their industrial focus is really big freighters and big terminals."

Owen said he's received many calls from water lot leaseholders telling him their rent is being raised by PMV anywhere between 50 and 300 per cent.

He estimates Ladner's leaseholders represent less than one per cent of PMV income but generate between 10 and 20 per cent of their issues. The biggest one is the issue of dredging, since dredging the main traffic corridor of the Fraser River at an internationally acceptable depth for the freighters is causing silting on the south side of the river.

"It's ludicrous for somebody like the Port or the province or the federal government to say, well that's too bad. This is a national, federal waterway. It needs to be dredged."

Delta-South MLA Vicki Huntington says the idea is interesting and should be explored, but there needs to be some clarity about the private and Crown land.

"In Ladner harbour, all of that northern bank is owned by the province, and so we've basically leased that land under administrative agreement with the province," she said.

"How that would impact some of the issues like dredging, I'm not sure."

Owen says it's not time for any rash decisions, but Ladner's harbour can't be revitalized without dredging.

"It needs to be looked at as to what would be the downside for Delta and what kind of agreement could Delta negotiate with the province insofar as sediment intrusion."

In fact, large portions of Delta and Richmond were built up from sediment deposited by 30 million cubic metres of water rushing down from the Fraser headwaters each and every year, said Owen.

According to an Intervistas report on Ladner, the boat launches at Ferry Road and Wellington Point Park generate $91 million in revenue and generate over 250 jobs. That revenue is threatened without dredging.

Prior to the George Massey Tunnel being built, the ferry used to come right into Ladner because Deas Slough provided enough water. In the late 1800's Port Guichon was the terminus for the rail, ferries traveling between Victoria, Fort Langley, and Harrison-Hope.

As waterways have been blocked off or diverted over the decades, Owen says Delta has been severely impacted.

[Update and correction Friday, Nov. 30 at 11:35 a.m. — The previous article said the Ladner Harbour Authority administers water lots in the harbour only, but that isn't the case. There was also confusion between the current incarnation of the harbour authority and a speculative new entity that could be called the Ladner Harbour Authority and operate with the same powers of Port Metro Vancouver.]

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