A group of residents of the shores of Shuswap and Mara lakes are renewing efforts to restrict the noise created by boats on the lakes.
The Shuswap and Mara Lakes Decibel Coalition (SMLDC) formed officially on March 1, 2021, but opposition to boat noise, particularly from large speed boats, also referred to as cigarette boats, has been ongoing.
According to their spring 2021 newsletter, the SMLDC plans to outfit their members with portable decibel meters in order to collect noise readings from boats this summer. It says they will focus on boats they believe to have illegal exhaust systems.
Gary Milne, who now sits on the SMLDC board, started a Change.org petition in 2019 which has now received 743 signatures. The petition requests the regulation of noisy boats on Shuswap Lake and mentions high performance speed boats in particular. The petition complains of the boats’ high-speed capabilities and the large wakes they leave behind at slower speeds. The petition also mentions the 2019 fatality on Shuswap Lake which followed a collision between two speed boats.
“These high performance, ear-piercing boats must be regulated,” the petition reads.
The petition is being made to Transport Canada and the Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD). The CSRD has documented frustration with the difficulty of enforcing their Shuswap Marine Noise Control Program bylaw which has been in place since 1982. The program prohibits boats without conventional wet exhaust systems or suitable mufflers.
“The enforcement of this bylaw has proven to be very difficult since the CSRD lacks the required technical capability, enforcement capacity, and most importantly, the jurisdictional authority,” an Aug. 2015 CSRD document reads.
The 2015 board report notes that CSRD bylaw officers do not have a boat capable of intercepting the speed boats and also no authority to board vessels in order to inspect them. The report states that RCMP or Transport Canada boating safety officers would be better suited to the task and there are Transport Canada regulations governing boat noise.
There is a speed limit of 10 km/h within 30 metres of shore on all B.C. waterways and Transport Canada can impose additional speed limits through vessel operating restriction regulations (VORR).
Currently, the Sicamous narrows between Shuswap and Mara Lakes is the only portion of the waterway subject to a Transport Canada VORR speed limit.