Port of Nanaimo presents plans for marina redesign

Port completes plans for boat basin, asks federal government for $15 million to build it

Plans for Port of Nanaimo’s revamped boat basin marina in downtown Nanaimo show more perpendicular slips and realigned floats that should increase moorage space by as much as 50 per cent. Image submitted

Design plans have been completed that envision increased moorage space and improved access at the downtown Nanaimo boat basin marina.

Now the Port of Nanaimo is waiting for federal funding before it can start construction.

According to a press release from the Port of Nanaimo issued last week, the port has asked for $15 million to pay for the revamped marina design which would increase moorage space by 50 per cent.

Mike Davidson, Port of Nanaimo co-chief executive officer, said it’s unlikely the federal government would provide the whole $15 million, but “you have to knock on some doors.”

The Port of Nanaimo does not have the money to begin construction, so there is no project start date, but as the port works to drum up funding sources, work is continuing toward the day when revamping the marina can get underway.

The plan is that the project would be built in phases over five years, starting with the outside northerly floats.

The current design was arrived at after public consultation and meetings with stakeholder groups that included commercial fishermen, tugboat and seaplane operators, marina tenants, restaurants, fuel suppliers, Protection Island Neigbourhood Association, Snuneymuxw First Nation, Protection and Newcastle islands ferry operators, boaters and paddlers, Canada Border Security, the RCMP Marine Division, residents and visitors accessing the marina from the Harbourside Walkway.

A previous attempt to upgrade the marina through a lease deal with Pacific Northwest Marine Group announced in 2012 was met with strong public opposition and abandoned in 2014.

The Port of Nanaimo is currently working to raise its public profile through various forms of engagement, and the recent announcement, Davidson said, is essentially an update to let the public know work is ongoing for the redesigned downtown marina and that the project is a priority for the Port of Nanaimo and chairwoman Michelle Corfield, who was reappointed Nov. 19 as the city’s board representative for another three years.

“We don’t have the money to build this thing, realistically, and at that time we didn’t, and we thought, you know what, we want to see these improvements here…” Davidson said. “We have a lot more work to do. We’re doing investigations right now. We did all the bathymetry, we did the subsurface sonar with [Terra Remote Systems], so we’re going to have the data that we need.”

One of the biggest construction cost factors is the seafloor of the boat basin inlet, which is bedrock.

“There’s a lot of rock out there and wherever there’s a lot of rock that means if you’re going to put a piling there that means you’re going to have to drill and every piling that you have to drill is going to cost you a fortune,” Davidson said.

Establishing partnerships that can help finance construction is one way to “chase down the money,” Davidson said, and some irons are in the fire that he said he can’t discuss yet. The Port of Nanaimo is mandated by the government to generate its own revenue as its operations aren’t subsidized.

The new marina design will feature slip moorage instead of the marina’s current alongside moorage.

“It’s the same overall footprint, but you’re using slip moorage instead of alongside moorage and that’s where you get that 50-plus per cent increase in moorage space and it’s just more efficient use of the water or the space you have,” Davidson said.

Plans also call for the fuel dock to be repositioned out to the marina entrance to improve access for larger vessels.

Changes to the facility won’t happen all at once, but will have to be carried in four or even five phases of construction due to logistics and possibly over the next three to five years, depending on available cash.

“It’s going to come in phases,” he said. “You don’t need $15 million to start it. You just need $3-5 million to start the phases … and it has to be done in phases because you just can’t take out ‘x’ amount of feet of moorage and displace all those boats. You have to do it in a way that you can manage your existing tenants and existing users.”



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