Shore power gets priority as harbour authority delays plan for hotel and stores

The Greater Victoria Harbour Authority plans to temporarily shelve its master plan for the Breakwater District at Ogden Point to focus its efforts on a series of environmental initiatives, including establishing shore power for cruise ships at Ogden Point.

The harbour authority is expected to ask the City of Victoria for a five-year extension to develop a master plan that fits with James Bay neighbourhood plans and will include projects that complement the area.

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“I feel we have made the right decision. This will allow us to focus on the environmental sustainability of that site and address the aging infrastructure we have at our other facilities,” said GVHA chief executive Ian Robertson.

The decision means the harbour authority will not pursue development at Ogden Point until Dec. 31, 2025.

A tentative master plan, which would have taken decades to realize and cost in excess of $300 million, was unveiled in 2016 after 10 years of planning. It suggested the site could include a hotel, stores, cruise-ship and other marine services, parks, walkways, First Nation displays and an educational component.

The harbour authority will instead focus on environmental projects that include determining the feasibility and business case for shore power for cruise ships, working with the federal government on environmental remediation of Ogden Point’s deep-water port and improving other facilities.

Robertson said the decision to refocus makes sense after an environmental report last year recommended exploring shore power, something the City of Victoria has pushed for to reduce emissions from increasing numbers of cruise ships.

Last year, Synergy Enterprises released a report showing greenhouse-gas emissions at Ogden Point had increased nearly 20 per cent over the past 10 years to more than 12,000 tonnes annually, the equivalent of 3,241 vehicles on the road per year.

Annual cruise-ship visits increased to 243 in 2018 from 219 in 2010.

The harbour authority estimates shore power would result in a 51 per cent reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions from ships in port and 47 per cent reduction in all other emissions.

Robertson said they have already taken the first steps by meeting with B.C. Hydro and determining there is enough power on the Island for shore power.

The harbour authority has also hired an engineering firm to put together a business case for shore power and determine the options available to pay the estimated $20-million cost.

Robertson said funding would likely involve the cruise-ship industry and various levels of government.

He said the harbour authority is also assessing the condition of all its properties, building a case to go to government and the private sector to ask for help in ongoing maintenance and significant repairs to facilities such as the causeway and Ship Point.

“They are facilities given to us that generate no revenue, yet we are expected to maintain them. We haven’t yet crunched the numbers, but we will be at a point in the next 15 to 20 years when we will not have enough cash to fix everything.”

Robertson said the new focus has brought a “sense of relief” for the harbour authority. “I really believe we are now focusing on the priorities that need to be looked after.”

aduffy@timescolonist.com

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