Letter: Say ‘No’ to boating restrictions

Letter: Say ‘No’ to boating restrictions

I am opposed to the motion to close the Shuswap River to power boating involving towing, waterskiing

To the RDNO Directors, Electoral Area Advisory committee members and Alternates:

I have owned a residence at the south end of Mara Lake for over 18 years. I am completely opposed to the motion put forward by Mr. Halvorson to close the Shuswap River to power boating that involves towing and waterskiing. My family and I water ski in the area from Mara Lake to Mara bridge. In addition, we enjoy kayaking, paddleboarding and wildlife viewing. This river has brought a great deal of joy and peace to my family. These activities are important and meaningful to us.

The Shuswap River is a jewel to be enjoyed by all users of the river. I believe it is used responsibly and courteously by individuals. It should remain available for all to use and to enjoy their activities.

Public access to boat and waterski responsibly on the Shuswap River should not be limited by a few individuals who want the river to themselves. There has been no credible scientific evidence, safety statistics, or fishing statistics that have been put forth by the group that wants to close the river to waterskiing and power boating. There has been no actual scientific and economic study completed. A few points that must be considered are:

Boating season is typically late June to early August when water levels drop to the point where boating is unsafe. Salmon spawning occurs well after boating season is over and salmon require more oxygen to spawn than is provided in the sand of the river and will spawn further upstream in gravel beds.

I am a professional geologist and I am very familiar with the natural forces affecting rivers. Bank erosion is largely due to the natural force of water and a process called “meandering” where a river will change its course significantly over the years. The influence of boats is minimal compared to the natural force of the river, in particular during spring run-off.

There have been over 30 deaths in recent memory on the river according to the coroner’s office in Vernon, but there is not a single documented boating related incident on the entire river. Boating safety is not an issue. It is being used as a smokescreen by people who have a specific desire to limit a particular activity on the river — water skiing and towing of water skiers by boats.

As a property owner in the region, I am concerned that this ban will take away the use of the river by my family and will also reduce my property values. A very important reason that I purchased property in the RDNO along the Shuswap River was to be able to enjoy boating and water skiing with family and friends. Moreover, this is the main reason that many stakeholders have purchased land along the Shuswap River and at the south end of Mara Lake.

This feature of ownership is arguably the most alluring, desirable and valuable component of the land. The Shuswap River makes this area unique. Sadly, the RDNO’s proposed restriction, if adopted, would arbitrarily confiscate this utmost important source for the reasonable enjoyment of one’s own property. I am very concerned that, should this proposal proceed, the property values in the region will drop and the businesses that rely on boating in the Mara Lake area will be harmed.

The residents who support power boating and waterskiing on the river have had their concerns ignored. I am concerned that the RDNO had already made up its mind on this issue prior to starting the consultation process with all stakeholders based on the interests of a few people who would like to keep the river to themselves.

The RDNO went through a formality of consultation with no intent to have a compromised solution but rather to appear to hear all residents concerns. The side opposing power boating on the river did not compromise on any point during the arbitration process.

The boaters proposed a number of solutions that were all categorically turned down in favour of a complete ban on waterskiing on the river. This has been an extremely flawed process. If this resolution is passed, The RDNO and its directors will open itself up to legal challenges and lawsuits from individuals, groups and businesses.

Let me be clear: If the RDNO passes this discriminatory resolution, a legal action will be initiated against the RDNO board as a whole and the individual members who endorsed it. It will be well funded and well represented. This legal action will be expensive for the RDNO to defend, time-consuming and not in the best interests of the RDNO’s residents.

I ask you to vote against this motion and respect the rights of all river residents and users.

Ken McKay