Protecting Bedwell Bay From Visitor Abuse
The growing population of Metro Vancouver is visibly apparent in the growing number of people pursuing recreational activities both in Belcarra Regional Park and on the waters of Indian Arm. Unfortunately, increasing numbers of recreational visitors bring with them issues that must be managed at a local level. One of those issues is the discharge of sewage from boats that visit Bedwell Bay; particularly vessels that stay for overnight visits. Complaints about "Mr. Floatie" sightings and related "foamy evidence" by swimmers, kayakers, paddle-boarders and water-skiers continue to be too frequent to ignore.
It was in 1995 that Belcarra Council started to pursue regulations restricting the discharge of raw sewage into the waters of Bedwell Bay and Indian Arm. In August 1998 I reported that the Greater Vancouver Regional District, now referred to as Metro Vancouver, endorsed our recommendation that the GVRD ask the BC Ministry of Environment to request the Federal Government to have Indian Arm designated under the Pleasure Craft Sewage Prevention Regulations as a "No Flush Zone". This initiative resulted in follow-up correspondence with the Federal Government regarding the request, but regulatory changes were not forth-coming.
In May 2006, we wrote to our Federal Member of Parliament, James Moore, regarding the need for a sewage discharge regulation aimed at pleasure craft in Indian Arm and Bedwell Bay. Mr. Moore took-up the issue with Transport Canada, and in August 2006 I was able to report that new Federal Government regulations were being enacted that included an absolute ban on the dumping of untreated sewage within three (3) nautical miles of Canada's coasts for pleasure craft and small ships. Notwithstanding, there continues to be a problem in that the new regulations are virtually impossible to enforce.
In 2014 Transport Canada issued a discussion paper that proposed changes to the Vessel Pollution and Dangerous Chemicals Regulations that included amendments regarding sewage discharge requirements, and Belcarra Council wrote to provide comments regarding those proposed changes to the regulations. We are still waiting on Transport Canada to bring forward the proposed amendments to the regulations.
In 2014 Belcarra Council also wrote to Transport Canada requesting that Bedwell Bay be added to the list of water bodies identified in the Vessel Pollution and Dangerous Chemicals Regulations, Schedule 2, Designated Sewage Areas. (When a water body is included within the schedule of 'designated sewage areas', the regulation specifically prohibits sewage discharge by vessels within that water body, and is easier to enforce due to the requirement for vessels with 'heads' to have a holding tank and isolation valve.) It took months to receive a response which reiterated that Transport Canada was still reviewing the regulations.
Nothing was going to happen during 2015 due to the Federal election last Fall, so we waited until this Spring to again write to Transport Canada. At the end of June, we got a somewhat different response. In addition to the standard reply that Transport Canada is "presently reviewing the regulations", we were also advised that "new designated sewage areas … can be considered subject to the federal regulatory process that requires approvals by the Treasury Board of proposed and final regulations, and publications in the Canada Gazette with a public comment period." Although this process can be expected to take 18 months or more, at least the Federal Government is now prepared to accept a submission from Belcarra regarding the designation of Bedwell Bay.
For many years Belcarra residents have wanted to see regulations implemented to protect Bedwell Bay, and Council is very pleased that the Federal Government is finally prepared to accept an application from the municipality to have Bedwell Bay included in the schedule of Designated Sewage Areas.
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Village of Belcarra
4084 Bedwell Bay Road
Tel: (604) 937-4100
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