Police presence expected at blockade

NANAIMO: Mounties will be monitoring a Sept. 1 blockade of the Boat Basin.

The Mounties will be monitoring a Sept. 1 blockade of the Nanaimo Boat Basin.

Opponents to a proposed 30-year lease of the Boat Basin between the Nanaimo Port Authority and Pacific Northwest Marina Group plan to anchor boats – and string lines – across the entrance to the marina to draw attention to what they say is privatization of the harbour.

Const. Sherri Wade, Nanaimo RCMP spokeswoman, said police will have a marine unit in the area.

“Our role is to make sure everyone is safe and no one is impeded from using the water way,” she said. “We will also enforce any court orders that come about.”

Brunie Brunie, blockade organizer, said the Protection Island ferry, fishing boats and small dinghies will be allowed to pass through the blockade, but not larger, private vessels.

Wade said large vessels have every right to go into the Boat Basin.

“It sounds like they’re looking to be co-operative, so it might come to pass if we have a big boat come in, our role might be one of negotiation,” she said.

The port authority signed a memorandum of understanding with Sidney-based Pacific Northwest which proposes $9 million in upgrades to the 72-year-old marina, but Lisa Makar, company spokeswoman, said they are strictly in the approval process.

“There is this misconception out there that this is a done deal,” she said. “Talks are continuing with First Nations and the port authority.”

Makar is disappointed with the news of the blockade.

“It’s discouraging in the fact that we have an info centre open a couple days a week and we get a lot of the public coming through,” she said.

“Because a lot of the members of the opposition were protesting outside the info centre, I’ve had a dialogue with them, trying to ensure they’re getting the right message. When it continues to go out incorrectly, absolutely it is frustrating.”

Makar said the company has met with Protection Island residents,  boat owners in the commercial fishing fleet and the public, and has made revisions to its site plan.

“It’s not going to be a gated marina, that’s just not good business,” she said.

“Having the public there, encouraging people to come down and look at the boats and be a part of it is what makes it a vital, exciting marina.

“We’ve clearly identified on the site plan access points to public, the public walkways and a gathering place we would ideally like to see become a market place.”

The revised site plan has also increased allocation of moorage for smaller boats.

“For a new marina, industry standard for moorage of slips around 20 feet is about 10 per cent. In our initial drawing we allocated about 17 per cent knowing we had smaller boats around here, specifically Protection Island commuters,” said Makar.

“Throughout this last month and talking to folks and seeing what we’re dealing with in terms of need, we’ve increased that allocation to 26 per cent.”

If the blockade goes ahead, Pacific Northwest will not be involved.

“Because we are not currently operating the marina, that would fall to the port authority to deal with it,” said Makar.

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