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TOP NEWS STORIES: Public opposition halts marina deal

Aging infrastructure is still a challenge for the Nanaimo Port Authority after a deal to rehabilitate the Boat Basin by a private marine company fell through earlier this year. - News Bulletin file
Aging infrastructure is still a challenge for the Nanaimo Port Authority after a deal to rehabilitate the Boat Basin by a private marine company fell through earlier this year.
— image credit: News Bulletin file

iendlier harbours in April after its proposal to lease the downtown Boat Basin and spend about $9 million upgrading and expanding the marina’s capacity ran aground on strong local opposition.

The downtown marina has been deteriorating and losing money for several years – $180,000 in 2011 and about $230,000 in 2010 – as fleets of fishing boats and other commercial craft dwindled with West Coast fisheries.

‘D’ wharf was condemned and closed over structural safety concerns in January as the Nanaimo Port Authority – the federal agency responsible for the marina – waited to sign a deal with the private firm.

When the proposal was first announced in mid 2012 it triggered a maelstrom of opposition from local residents, commercial fishermen, Protection Island residents and representatives from Snuneymuxw First Nation. The port authority was also criticized for choosing a private company to manage what residents saw as a public asset. By April last year, the Pacific Northwest Maria Group executives opted to weigh anchor and take their $9-million investment to calmer waters.

That leaves the Boat Basin still in need of millions of dollars worth of repairs and renovations. The port authority commissioned an engineering survey to get a good look at what’s good, bad and ugly in the Boat Basin.

The next steps are to develop design concepts – the marina will be rejigged from its current linear configuration to a finger slip design to accommodate more boats – and determine which of the newest dock construction materials available on the market will be best suited to the application.

A new crane will also be installed for commercial fishermen to transfer cargo and equipment to and from boats. Work will start in spring 2014.

More consultations with various users are yet to come, but whatever the new marina looks like when complete – work will be done in phases over three to five years based on revenue and seasonal Department of Fisheries and Oceans restrictions – it will cost an estimated $5 million to $6 million.

That money will come from moorage and service fees, which will rise about 15 per cent overall to represent current market rates.

“We’re not going to compete with our own customers,” said Bernie Dumas, port authority CEO. “We have property in the channel that we lease to other companies. We’ve always had a far lower tariff, so we’re going to equalize it, so we’re going to have market rates ...  So that’s how we’re going to do it and that’s going to help us secure the revenue to move forward.”

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