It’s a complaint that comes before council every few years and it’s back again this year. Boat motor noise on the lake is an issue that affects many, with strong opinions on either side — some wanting to play with their power boats and jet skis and others wanting to enjoy the peace and tranquility that comes with lake life.
“The last time it came through it was because organizations were trying to run [very loud] boats,” Lake Cowichan Mayor Bob Day explained. “Now this group is coming along just wanting to make it a provincial ban and they wanted our support,” he said.
Alan Drinkwater of the Canada National Decibel Coalition asked council for support for the reduction of excessive boat motor noise during their July 10 Parks, Recreation and Culture committee meeting.
“During 2020 my wife and I spent most of the year at Shuswap Lake and during that time I became acutely aware of the problem of excessively noisy motorboats,” Drinkwater explained. “Let’s be clear, the vast majority of motorboat owners are responsible citizens. That means their boats have working mufflers and if they’re equipped with a muffler system bypass, they do not engage it.”
Drinkwater noted roughly 24 to 30 of 9,000 boats each season at Shuswap are responsible for the bulk of the noise pollution.
“We’re not talking about a large number of boats, we’re talking about the outliers that create havoc,” he said. “Since the 2008 recession, we’ve had over a decade of solid economic growth and unfortunately this has resulted in an influx of high-powered, high-performance motorboats on Canada’s inland waterways. Typically these boats have one or two V8 engines and they have no muffler or they use the muffler system bypass which means the exhaust gases and the noise of the engine operating go directly into the atmosphere. People across the country are fed up with this noise.”
Drinkwater said that he’s talking about the boats that pass by beach-goers and as they pass, people have to stop their conversations until the noise goes away.
“It’s deafening,” he said. “This is the problem we want to deal with.”
Drinkwater also noted though, that it’s a small portion of power boaters and that it’s not the jetski and sea-dooers either, as the latter types of watercraft have more of an irresponsible operator problem than a noise problem, he said.
Grassroots support for dealing with excessively noisy boats is growing in the Cowichan Valley with the Shawnigan Residents Association, the Youbou Community Association, and the Cowichan Lake and River Stewardship Society joining the Decibel Coalition and supporting its approach to dealing with the problem.
Transport Canada is in charge of boat motor noise laws and there’s little municipalities can do.
“Our challenge is to demonstrate to Transport Canada that there is support across the country for the need to deal with excessively noisy motorboats and to convince Transport Canada that a decibel-limit-based law is the right approach. I’m hopeful that you will see the benefit to your constituents by supporting our approach to getting proper legislation in place that will enable the RCMP to deal with boat motor noise issues.”
Those types of decisions aren’t made following a delegation, Day noted, so the matter was sent to next month’s Finance and Administration committee meeting.
“We’ll talk about it there,” Day said.