Boaters could be left high and dry on parts of the Shuswap River and that is generating debate.
The Regional District of the North Okanagan is currently seeking feedback on proposed regulations for the river, including no motorized vessels from south Mabel Lake upstream to Shuswap Falls and from Trinity Valley Road upstream to the eastern end of Skookumchuck Rapids Park.
“The entire process has been biased,” said Mike Steiner, who owns 1,500 feet of riverfront in Mara.
“RDNO has neglected its responsibilities to users and stakeholders.”
In 2010, the regional district initiated a process to develop a Shuswap River Watershed Sustainability Plan, and Steiner says key stakeholders were absent.
“It specifically excluded advocates from the boating community, sport fishermen and certain businesses who rely on motorized use of the river and riverfront landowners who boat,” he said.
However, the process is being defended by the Lower Shuswap Stewardship Society.
“The plan was a lengthy process with lots of consultation and once concerns were identified, three working groups were formed (to develop possible strategies),” said Jean Clark, with LSSS.
“In public meetings, there were hundreds of concerns about boats. It became one of the big issues on the river.”
In terms of specific rules about restricting motorized boats, Clark insists now is the time for consultation.
“Some think it’s a done deal, but it’s not.”
An open house will be held at the Enderby Drill Hall, Wednesday, June 10 from 5 to 7:30 p.m. and there will be one at the Mabel Lake Community Hall (Lumby end), Thursday, June 11 from 5 to 7:30 p.m.
Surveys can also be completed online at www.rdno.ca/boating and they will be mailed to property owners adjoining the river in the affected areas.
“Once we get the feedback and look at the level of support and concerns, then there will be a decision made on whether we continue pursuing regulations or if we drop the matter,” said Anna Page, RDNO sustainability co-ordinator.
The ultimate decision on restrictions is made by Transport Canada.
Page says the goal of the proposed rules is to improve recreational safety, reduce bank erosion, reduce disturbance to salmon spawning grounds and minimize conflicts between river users.
“Community groups and businesses have raised concerns about boats.”
While some sections of the river could see motorized boats banned, it’s proposed that there be a vessel engine size limit of 10 horsepower from Mara Lake upstream to Trinity Valley Road.
Herman Halvorson, RDNO’s rural Enderby director, says he is being lobbied by those who want motorized boats on the river and those who don’t.
“I’m completely open to the process and we will deal with it in a proper fashion. I am neutral,” he said.
A similar response is also coming from Greg McCune, Enderby director.
“We’re encouraging people not to jump to conclusions but to fill out the survey,” he said.