This past weekend, the Cowichan Lake and River Stewardship Society (CLRSS) launched its boater education project.
The society recently printed a brochure that will be handed out to boaters in the area at the municipal boat ramp on North Shore Road, and at the Cowichan Lake Marina.
The society has also asked local businesses, such as Cowichan Fly and Tackle, Orka Outdoor Recreation and Kayaking, and the Cowichan Lake Chamber Centre, along with others to carry the brochure.
The brochure provides boating safety tips on being quiet, being considerate, and respecting the law.
Dianne Gunderson, vice president of CLRSS, says that noise is the main focal point of this education initiative.
“We have loons on the lake, and they are wonderful to have back, but they are very susceptible to noise. A lot of birds are,” she says.
Gerald Thom, the president of the society, adds that noise and excessive boat wash can cause the loons to leave their nests and abandon their eggs.
The society recommends installing and maintaining an effective muffler system. If the exhaust noise is clearly audible over all other noise, the brochure states that it is too loud.
Also, keep the volume low on boat stereo systems. Sound travels much further over water, and excessive noise can disturb residents around the lake, as well as wildlife.
The Canada Shipping Act states that no-one may operate a pleasure boat unless it has a muffler in good working order and is in operation at all times to prevent excessive noise, unless the exhaust gases are directed underwater through the propeller hub or below the cavitations plate.
The CVRD also has a bylaw in place that states that no person shall operate a vessel in such a condition or in such a manner as to cause noises or sounds which disturb or tend to disturb the quiet, peace, rest, enjoyment, comfort, or convenience of the neighbourhood.
The brochure also cites the fact that dozens of studies have identified noise as an important contributor to physical and psychological stress, and that stress has been linked to many of our most common health problems.
Animals are also adversely affected by noise pollution. Noise levels of 85 decibels or greater can cause hearing loss, and it can mask important environmental clues from other animals. It can also have other negative physiological and behavioural effects.
The whole initiative is built on respect, says Gunderson, and in that vein the brochure asks that boaters keep speed down, watch for swimmers and wildlife, keep wake down to prevent erosion and damage, and watch for other boats out on the water.
This need for consideration and respect extends to activities on the river as well. Tubers, kayakers, and others who head out to enjoy river activities are asked to respect private property, not to litter, and to respect laws about alcohol.
Look for Oxford the Otter signs around the lake and along the river this summer, and remember to have consideration for both Lake Cowichan residents and the wildlife this summer, because it’s “your holiday, our home.”