Enforcement of the Gorge Waterway - Next Steps

On October 13, 2016, City Council directed staff to proceed with the removal of abandoned vessels from the Gorge Waterway and to seek injunctions as required to remove any vessels or wharves that remain in the area in contravention of City bylaws.

Based on community input, on May 26, 2016, City Council approved changes to improve the management of the Gorge Waterway, limiting long-term mooring to a maximum of 48 hours, and not more than 72 hours in a 30-day period.

The changes enhance the use of the waterway for recreation, prohibit residential use and the storage of vessels, and address the negative impacts that unregulated marine activities are having on the marine environment and Victoria residents, without restricting navigation.

Current Situation
Currently, there are 24 vessels and four floating wharves illegally situated in the area. Yesterday, the City posted follow-up notices on vessels and wharves anchored in the Gorge Waterway, reminding owners that they are occupying this area contrary to the City’s Zoning Regulation Bylaw. The notice asks that all vessels and wharves be removed by Friday, October 28, 2016. The previous notice, issued in mid-June, requested boats and vessels be removed from the waterway by July 18, 2016. Subsequently, three vessels voluntarily left the area.

Outreach
Approximately seven of the 24 vessels are used as residences. The City is working in partnership with Pacifica Housing to offer outreach services to those living aboard these vessels to assist them in finding alternate housing. An open forum will be held on Tuesday, October 25, 2016 from noon – 2 p.m. at the Victoria West Community Centre at 521 Craigflower Road, to provide an opportunity for those living aboard vessels to connect with Pacifica Housing’s outreach team.

Enforcement
The ultimate goal is for all owners to remove their vessels and wharves voluntarily. After Friday, October 28, 2016, the City will begin enforcement to remove the remaining vessels according to Transport Canada’s requirements.

If necessary, the City will seek an injunction, a court order from the BC Supreme Court, for the removal of any remaining vessels that have not complied with the City’s Zoning Regulation Bylaw. City Council has approved up to $120,000 for enforcement of the Gorge Waterway.

The City of Victoria is currently working with a local company to remove two sunken vessels from the area. Signs will soon be posted, informing the public of the limited mooring regulations.

To Report Long-Term Mooring
City Bylaw officers will continue to monitor the Gorge Waterway, and the public is asked to report any long-term mooring by calling 250.361.0215.

Background
In early 2016, the City of Victoria proposed changes to the management of the Gorge Waterway, having received a Licence of Occupation [PDF - 4.5 MB] in fall 2015 to further establish its management authority over the area.

Although the City had initially aimed to prohibit all anchoring in this area, a full ban on anchoring had been recently tested by a BC Court of Appeal in West Kelowna. The decision suggested that a municipal bylaw that does not allow for some anchoring may be viewed as interfering with federal jurisdiction over navigation and shipping.

The proposed zoning amendment was introduced to stakeholders at an information session (February 12) and at a community meeting (May 5) for feedback. The public was also invited to email their input by May 6. View the Gorge Waterway Community Meeting, May 5, 2016 Presentation [PDF - 625 KB].

Public feedback on the proposed zoning amendment was presented to City Council for consideration at the Committee of the Whole meeting on Thursday, May 12, 2016. A public hearing was subsequently held at the May 26, 2016 City Council meeting to provide the public a further opportunity to provide input. It was at this meeting that Council approved the proposed amendment.