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Port of Nanaimo plans to increase size of city’s downtown marina

The Port of Nanaimo is hoping to expand capacity at its boat basin marina under a $15-million capital plan developed following extensive consultation.
Artist's rendering of design for Nanaimo's new boat basin marina.

The Port of Nanaimo is hoping to expand capacity at its boat basin marina under a $15-million capital plan developed following extensive consultation.

“We are seeing a need for expansion,” said Mike Davidson, co-chief executive officer of the Port of Nanaimo.

Nanaimo’s marina is not alone. West coast marina operators say demand is strong for moorage and pleasure boaters are increasingly bringing in larger vessels.

Commercial boats take up about 30 to 40 per cent of moorage at the Nanaimo marina. It is a base for the area’s commercial fishing fleet, tugs and adventure tourism operators.

The marina serves pleasure boaters who stay year-round or by the month, and accommodates visiting vessels that tie up for a stop as they head north. Those visitors bring an economic benefit as they go into the city to stock up on provisions and make other expenditures, Davidson said.

Vessel owners who live on Protection Island also rely on the marina.

Initial designs unveiled Thursday show the marina will not take up any more space, but reconfiguring its layout will increase its moorage by 50 per cent.

Plans call for more slips, positioned at right-angles, rather than only having long-linear docks, Davidson said. This allows more vessels to fit into existing space.

A wider, heavier dock will be installed to serve the commercial fleet, he said.

The existing fuel dock will be moved to the entrance of the marina, where it will be easier for larger vessels to use and will reduce congestion, said Port of Nanaimo vice-chair Donna Hais.

There are two floating food outlets now. A third is proposed.

An application has been submitted to the federal government to cover a third of the expense, Davidson said. The Port hopes to line up other funding partners.

Once funding is in place, plans call for the marina to be built in phases during a five-year period, starting with the outside floats to the north.

InterTidal Design developed the concept plan. An environmental assessment is nearly completed. When that work is done, the Port will concentrate on more detailed construction plans.

Currently, the marina and the W.E. Mills Landing and Marina, also known as the visiting vessel pier, have more than 7,000 feet of moorage in total. The boat basin marina in the inner part of the harbour consists of 5,000 feet of moorage.

Nanaimo’s marina is literally front and centre in the community. Its redevelopment has been a goal for many years. In 2012, the Port of Nanaimo announced it was planning to sign a 30-year lease with a private company for a $9-million redevelopment. That plan was scrapped in 2013. Area marina users who felt excluded from the planning process raised concerns that there wouldn’t be enough moorage and feared moorage rates would increase and become unaffordable.

In summer 2014, the Port decided to look at doing the project on its own. But in 2015, it announced it would not proceed because it was too expensive.

Now, the project has been revived again. Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog welcomes the plan, saying “it is one of many good-news stories that are going to come out of Nanaimo over the next few years.”

But the city is not in a position to commit money, Krog said. “We’ll offer support as much as we can.”