Environment review, economy cited for marina deal failure

NANAIMO – Port Authority readies boat basin for busy summer season, will look at options this fall.

It’s business as usual at the Nanaimo Boast Basin despite the fact the Pacific Northwest Marina Group has pulled out of a proposed 30-year lease and $9-million investment in the marina.

A memorandum of agreement signed between the Nanaimo Port Authority and Pacific Northwest in May 2012 expired April 1, and the marina group will not be taking on the revitalization and long-term lease of the Nanaimo marina.

Bernie Dumas, CEO of the Nanaimo Port Authority, said the economic climate and changes to federal environmental impact reviews played a part in the demise of the deal.

“Their position was the change in the overall economy – in the sense that there were other investment opportunities available to them that would have  a quicker return on their investment – and the length of time needed to do the environmental review was a contributing factor in their decision not to renew the MOA,” he said. “Without the MOA, the port is unable to go forward.”

Changes to the rules surrounding the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency reviews made the port authority responsible for looking at what impact the boat basin project would have on the  environment.

Dumas said some of the delays on the environmental review were due to the port’s sensitivity to concerns of residents and marina stakeholders.

“We were working through them and trying to find solutions which caused the need for more time,” he said. “The Pacific Northwest Marina Group wasn’t really interested in wasting any more time and we couldn’t get them to extend the MOA.”

The proposal created a storm of controversy with local residents and marina stakeholders, such as commercial fishermen and Protection Island residents, but Dumas couldn’t say if that played a part in the failure of the deal or if future investors might be scared off from investing in Nanaimo.

“That’s a question to be directed to Pacific Northwest,” he said. “I can say we are one big community and there’s been some disappointments collectively here. As a port authority, we are just going forward.”

Dumas says the port authority still believes the redevelopment would have had a good result for the basin and Nanaimo, but the situation now is simply status quo.

“We’re going forward and will continue to operate the marina as we have for the last 50 years. We’re in no immediate rush. We’re going to look at our options,” Dumas said.

“We’re going to do some inspections of the marina over the next month, make sure it’s safe and get it ready for the summer season.

“We’ll take a look at our options in the fall.”

Repeated phone calls to the Pacific Northwest Marina Group for an interview were not returned. Its website now only refers to Monday’s press release issued by the Nanaimo Port Authority.