The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Resource Operations is trying to quell the increasing wave of opposition over the issue of docks in the Shuswap.
Formed following a July 3 meeting at Quaaout Lodge, which was held to discuss removal of semi-waterfront docks and attended by some 300 Shuswap residents, a group calling themselves P.R.E.S.S. (Preservation of the Recreational Economics of the Shuswap Society) is fighting to be able to have docks when and where they want them.
In their attempt to fight back against what they deem to be heavy-handed provincial regulation, the group purchased an ad with Black Press, declaring their position and advertising a meeting to be held Aug. 12 at Quaaout Lodge.
The ad contends the provincial government is taking action that will have negative implications on property values and riparian habitat, and will result in marina and boat-launch congestion and redistribution of the tax base.
It is the ad that prompted Steve Thomson, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations to write a letter to the editor of the Eagle Valley News.
Thomson maintains his ministry has no intention of removing docks “today, tomorrow or anytime soon.”
He reiterates that there are more than 1,500 unauthorized docks on Shuswap Lake – most of which will be eligible for a long-term tenure or licence.
Thomson says his ministry is creating more streamlined processes that will make tenure and licence application easier.
In the matter of who may have a dock, Thomson is clear – under long-existing legislation, only true waterfront property owners may, while those whose properties are separated from the water by a road or railway may not.
But P.R.E.S.S. members have issues beyond docks.
“The initial impetus was to save semi-waterfront docks from being removed, but the thinking was that it is just too narrow of an issue and there are a bunch of other things that are indicative of trends that are not looking at a balance between business and the environment,” says North Shuswap Chamber of Commerce president Dave Cunliffe.
In a July 25 email to Launch Ltd. owner Brad Long, who says his North Shuswap business has already experienced a downturn, Cunliffe wrote, “It (P.R.E.S.S.) also wants to provide a voice for families who enjoy all aspects of the Shuswap lifestyle.”
Cunliffe says there is growing fear tourism around the lake will be diminished.
But Thomson has another message: residents and cabin owners should “enjoy the summer with the comfort of knowing their docks will remain in place.”