BY GLENN STEVENS and other CLEAN AND SAFE HARBOURS INITIATIVE MEMBERS
The June 28 Driftwood editorial indicates there is confusion about the Clean and Safe Harbours Initiative (CASHI).
We appreciate the nearly unanimous support for our proposal expressed by the public at the Local Trust Committee meeting of June 22. Since that time some people have raised legitimate concerns and questions about CASHI, which we welcome and which we wish to address.
Let’s start with some facts about existing bylaws:
• Current Islands Trust Bylaw 355 makes living on vessels in our harbours illegal, except for licensed commercial fishing vessels and security personnel at a public docking facility.
• Section 3.2.1 of that same bylaw prohibits disposal of any waste on land or in marine areas in all Islands Trust zones.
• According to Bylaw 446, current penalties include fines of $350 to $5,000 per day for violations.
• During COVID, Islands Trust adopted resolution SS-2020-145 stating that enforcement of the “no dwelling on vessels” law would be deferred for dwelling on vessels at marinas if vessels comply with all laws pertaining to no short-term rentals, navigation, safety equipment, registration, insurance, seaworthiness, and sewage disposal. Failure to comply is supposed to trigger enforcement.
Islands Trust has never enforced those laws and has taken no meaningful action to make our harbours clean and safe, even though Canada’s Supreme Court has stated that the Islands Trust has the legal authority to regulate the land within its designated Trust area, including the seabed. Our provincial and federal governments have also taken no meaningful actions to prevent illegal dumping of waste into our harbours.
There are also misperceptions about elements of the CASHI proposal:
• CASHI is being championed by many concerned residents, businesses and marinas, and not just driven by “waterfront property owners” as the Driftwood alleges.
• Our proposal will reverse the “no living on vessels” law by putting in place a bylaw that makes living on vessels completely legal.
• If someone is legally allowed to live on a vessel in our harbours, it is reasonable that they comply with laws already in effect regarding disposal of waste and other marine protocols. These are the same requirements that the Salt Spring Islands Trust required for people to legally live on vessels at marinas during COVID.
• CASHI proposes that no fee be required to get the permit to live on a vessel, and insurance for all boats not currently in our harbours but a minimum one-year moratorium on this requirement for all vessels currently here.
• We proposed a code of conduct for all boaters and others using our harbours so that everyone is treated safely and respectfully.
• If the Islands Trust legalizes the right to live on vessels in our harbours, the Capital Regional District will need to provide adequate services to liveaboards. These services should include additional pump-out facilities, access to clean water and a larger public dinghy dock with extended hours for docking.
Currently, Islands Trust has no effective process to ensure our harbours are clean and safe. The permit process proposed by CASHI will shift the burden of justifying the right to live on a vessel from the Trust to the folks who want to live on their boats. To get a permit, the vessel owner will have to provide proof of compliance with the laws, instead of the Trust having to inspect every boat.
Our position is a reasonable, practical and workable solution that balances the need for protecting and preserving our environment and addressing the housing crisis. We can, and we must, solve both crises. Doing nothing about our harbour crises is unacceptable, and we cannot rely on our provincial and federal governments to solve these problems for us, as history has shown.
As polling clearly shows, having clean and safe harbours is strongly supported by a significant majority of Salt Spring Island residents. Contrary to what the Driftwood implied, just because the LTC has not yet made this a priority is not a rationale for continuing to do nothing.
The prime directive of “preserve and protect” should prompt action, now. As the Driftwood editorial says: “Who doesn’t want clean and safe harbours?” It’s time to do something instead of just talking about it or making excuses.
Please join us in supporting the proposed changes to the CASHI-proposed bylaw and moving to implement its provisions. As a society, we are only free and safe when we have reasonable laws that are enforced.
We encourage feedback at SSISACHI23@gmail.com.