Kayakers want marina scrapped

A kayaking group is demanding that the province turn down a developer's application to build a mega-yacht marina in Victoria Harbour.

The South Island Sea Kayaking Association has told Agriculture and Lands Minister Ron Cantelon, whose ministry must issue a water lease for the development to go ahead, that the proposed marina would contravene the public interest, the Land Act and common-law rights.

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A decision on the $20-million marina, proposed by developer Bob Evans and Western Asset Management Development Group of Alberta, is expected this summer.

The marina must also pass an environmental assessment by Transport Canada, currently accepting public submissions. "The goal is to ensure everybody gets a fair hearing," said ministry spokesman Rod Nelson, adding Minister John Baird has asked Transport officials to work with MP Denise Savoie, the City of Victoria and the province to determine the focus of a meeting on the marina "in the near future."

There is growing opposition to the development from groups concerned about lost water views from the Songhees Walkway, the project's scale and increased traffic in the already congested harbour.

Calvin Sandborn, director of the environmental law clinic at the University of Victoria, says under the Land Act, Cantelon cannot legally hand over a water lease unless it's in the public interest. Sandborn said kayakers have a legal right to paddle in waters where the marina is planned.

The developer has suggested a passageway will be built for canoes and kayaks, but the five-to-eight-metre gap won't be big enough for outrigger canoes, said Sandborn.

If the marina is approved, the sea kayaking association might take the matter to court, said Sandborn.

smcculloch@tc.canwest.com

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