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Protection Islanders want say in new marina

Plans to replace a historic marina in Nanaimo known as the Boat Basin with a modern, higher-end marine development have residents of Protection Island calling for more consultation.
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Protection Island residents are worried about the impact of a planned redevelopment of NanaimoÍs Boat Basin.

Plans to replace a historic marina in Nanaimo known as the Boat Basin with a modern, higher-end marine development have residents of Protection Island calling for more consultation.

The Nanaimo Port Authority announced plans last spring to sign a 30-year lease with private developer Pacific Northwest Marina Group, which says it plans to invest $9 million in the project.

An environmental review is underway, said Bernie Dumas, CEO of the port authority. The lease is expected to be signed in the next month or two.

The marina, which was built in the 1940s and accommodates a passenger ferry servicing Protection Island and islanders’ small boats, is reaching the end of its life, Dumas said Thursday.

“This is a sensational thing for the local community, to have a state-of-the-art, brand-new marina that will bring in people,” Dumas said.

But Protection Island residents are afraid a long-term lease agreement with a private operator could affect their ability to tie up boats in the marina. Free three-hour moorage is available twice a week for each household.

Although a port authority report says this won’t change, future access is not guaranteed, Dumas said. Putting such clauses in lease agreements “is not done in the marina business.”

However, the new design has been configured to accommodate boats owned by the Protection Island residents, and the port authority will have an agreement with PNMG to protect islanders’ access to the marina, he said.

“We’re sensitive to the Protection Island group, so I don’t anticipate any difficulties.”

The lease means the marina will be held by a private company that may not want to provide access to Protection Island residents, said David Carter, who has lived there for four years.

“Once the lease is signed, basically all bets are off, including any assurances given to us by the port authority, as to our access to downtown,” Clark said Thursday.

“There’s nobody, including the port authority — without abrogating their own lease — who could change anything,” he said.

Residents are facing the prospect of approaching another private operator on the harbour to get access to downtown, he said.

Protection Island is a lovely and unique community, he said. “People help one another. It’s very cohesive here.”

Andrew Homzy, president of the Protection Island Neighbourhood Association, said the city has a role to play to ensure Protection Island residents retain their current access to downtown.

“Our access isn’t on roads but on the water,” Homzy said. “Everybody else in Nanaimo has a transit bus to take them back and forth.”

The passenger ferry offers island residents 22 rides for $60, he said. It’s expected those rates will jump after the ferry operator hammers out a new service agreement with PNMG.

Nanaimo Mayor John Ruttan said Friday the city supports its Protection Island citizens but the port authority has jurisdiction.

At its meeting on Monday, Nanaimo council unanimously passed a resolution ensuring that “the historic, iconic and economic values of the marina and small boat basin be preserved in the redevelopment and that great care and attention be devoted to ensuring the public interest, including public and commercial access, is fully protected.”

Protection Island residents are not the only ones asking for more consultation. The Snuneymuxw First Nation has raised concerns about treaty rights, while the commercial fishery, which has long used the boat basin for moorage, is balking at paying higher fees.

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