Governments have put our lakes in a troubling situation

Our lakes are in trouble. The recent cutbacks by Senior Governments with regard to environmental protection have left our lakes and rivers vulnerable.

Klaus Kuhn

CVRD Area I Report

Our lakes are in trouble. The recent cutbacks by Senior Governments with regard to environmental protection have left our lakes and rivers vulnerable.

Local Governments (Regional Districts and Municipalities) are supposed to pick up the pieces, but they do not have the expertise, the funding or the legal clout to deal with the problems facing our most valuable water resources.

Downloading the responsibilities to local governments actually makes sense, since local governments are much closer to the action on the lakes. But with that responsibility should come the necessary funding and enforcement. Property Taxes are Local Governments’ only revenue and our taxes have been increasing relentlessly.

There is a certain amount of injustice with the locals having to pay for enforcement and oversight since many of the problems are caused by people from outside the area.

Some of the towns around lakes have their population double or triple in the summer. That puts strains on policing budgets, hence the lack of enforcement.

The lines of responsibilities even within the senior levels of government are blurry. The bodies of water are under federal jurisdiction, the surface of the water is regulated by Transport Canada and the RCMP while local governments are supposed to regulate and control the boat traffic by way of by-law enforcement. The Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans is responsible for anything below the high water mark, the lake bottoms are owned by the Federal Government or the Province, with the exception of lakes in the area of the former E&N land grant, where lake bottoms are now owned by the Forest Companies.

Funding for Fisheries and Oceans has been cut back so much that even site visits by their officers are restricted.

The B.C Ministry of Environment has now been consolidated with the Ministry of Forests and it is responsible for anything above the high watermark. Their funding has also been cut. The responsibility and the enforcement of the Riparian Area Regulation (RAR) are now left to local governments.

The establishment of the Riparian Area and the Streamside Protection and Enhancement Area Regulations (SPEA) were good steps in the right direction. These regulations have brought about awareness among governments and the communities of the importance of looking after our lakes and rivers. Now these regulations need teeth.

It makes little sense to expect local government to be in charge of the RAR and SPEA regulations when the ministries have the final say on any encroachments.

Boat noise ranks high on the list of concerns.

Many municipalities and Regional Districts have noise by-laws in place but find it difficult to enforce them.

Most troublesome are some of the larger boats (Cigar Boats) that use muffler bypasses. These boats are actually better suited for the ocean but they are now increasingly used on lakes.

With their large engines (some have over 800 horse power.) they produce a low loud rumble that, especially on lakes surrounded by mountains, creates intolerable noise. Local bylaw enforcement officers are overtaxed and the RCMP find noise bylaws difficult to enforce. Even though muffler bypasses are not allowed to be used, it is difficult to prove if a bypass was actually turned on.

A decibel meter is not an effective tool because one would have to drive beside the offender and confront them right there.

Also, these boats have high performance engines that require a higher amount of oil to be burned in order not to seize up. That adds to the pollution of air and the water.

Wakeboarding has become the recreation of choice in recent years.

These boats create substantial waves. Since much of the boating is done close to shore in order to display their talent, they cause damage to the shoreline and the docks.

Part 2 of this opinion piece will be in next week’s Gazette