Next Steps: Management of Gorge Waterway

On May 26, 2016, City Council approved changes to improve the management of the Gorge Waterway. The new changes enhance the use of the Selkirk Water 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.

New Zoning
The City-initiated rezoning for the Gorge Waterway limits anchoring for a period of up to 48 hours, but not exceeding 72 total hours in a 30-day period.

Notification
There are approximately 25 vessels and four floating wharves currently anchored in the waterway.

In mid-June, the City notified owners of boats and vessels anchored in the Gorge Waterway that they were now occupying an area of the Selkirk Waterway contrary to the City’s Zoning Regulation Bylaw. The notice requested that the boat or vessel be removed from the waterway by July 18, 2016.

Next Steps
In August, the City issued a Request for Proposals seeking a contractor to assist with the removal of two sunken vessels as well as others that are anchored and abandoned in the waterway. Once the contractor is selected, the two sunken vessels will be removed.

This fall, the City will proceed with pursuing the legal removal of the remaining boats and floating wharves through an injunction process.

The City will continue to reach out to those living aboard anchored boats in the waterway to connect them to services to assist them in finding alternate housing.

Signage will be posted at the entrance of the Gorge Waterway informing boaters of the limited anchoring use, and City Bylaw officers will continue to monitor the area.

An environmental assessment in this area is underway to identify potential adverse effects on human and ecological health. The results of this work will provide the technical basis to inform policy and practices for ongoing proactive management in the Waterway. This will include potential options to mitigate and/or avoid adverse impacts from vessels.

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.