Viewpoint: Local control of our docks preferred

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By RICK HILL

I would like to thank Kathy Scarfo for her highly informative articles relating to the Harbour Authority of Salt Spring Island (HASSI) and for the work, planning and improvements that she, the harbour authority board of directors and its staff inherited, have maintained and constantly improved over the last five years.

No stranger to HASSI or docks myself, I was a board member for 10 years, finally serving as interim manager for three months. I fished commercially on the West Coast and visited virtually every small craft harbour at one time or another from Alaska to Oregon. Salt Spring’s facilities compare more than favourably with other similar-sized, federally funded, government small-craft docks and it would be a personal tragedy for everyone living on, or visiting, this island if control of these facilities was lost to us in any way.

Our harbour and the village of Ganges together — with the security, convenience and entertainment provided — is virtually unique on the coast, and perfectly located as a waypoint for boat people from the U.S., who generally have money to spend, use little water and don’t bring cars. It is part of our home and plays a large part in why and how people come to visit us.

Ms. Scarfo is wrong to say that the possibility of an attempt or interest in taking over the local facilities by the CRD is a recent occurrence — several references to this were made in early boardroom “skuttlebutt” sessions by various members concerning the inevitability of a CRD appetite for such a plum. Since last fall’s referendum, Salt Spring has become more vulnerable and its ability to fend off “hostile takeovers” by elements within the CRD — who just happen to be our de facto governors — has diminished.

Our harbour facilities actually belong to us, the people of Canada, under the protection and auspices of the federal government through the direction of Small Craft Harbours. Other than our individual federal taxes, we pay nothing extra for major maintenance/repair/development costs. Operational costs are met by operational income. When Fulford dock blew to pieces during my HASSI tenure, the feds drove in new modern concrete pilings and supplied upgraded walkways all without cost to us. Maintaining HASSI’s eight docks to the high standards supplied by the feds would be an impossibility for us and conversion to real estate values would inevitably prove impossible to resist.

The thought that we, living as we do on an island, might lose control over these facilities is deeply disturbing. At present we can go for a walk around the floats, buy fish or crab, have a chat with the locals, all without chainlink fences, padlocks or uniforms to contend with as are most other alternative operations.

To protect our shared interest I believe that we must support our local harbour authority and pursue and encourage the strongest relationship possible with Small Craft Harbours, a proven relationship for many years with results that have enabled both HASSI and us to flourish.

The writer has served on the HASSI board in the past and been a commercial fisherman.

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