Jet ski activity on the Cowichan River is creating a wave of concern.
But officials remain uncertain what can and should be done about it.
The issue most recently surfaced as an issue for the town of Lake Cowichan council after a report about “a new tubing company offering to use jet skis on the river to tow people back, so no shuttles.”
“There is a notice up on 97 South Shore Rd. [a commercial space] saying that there is a new river tube company opening there which will have Seadoos towing the tubes back up the river instead of by shuttle bus. As you know, this would be terrible both in terms of gravel and salmon egg disturbance as well as noise. I assume they haven’t applied for their business licence yet but wanted to give you the head’s up,” Tom Roach told Ken Traynor of the Cowichan Lake and River Stewardship Society, who brought the concern to town council.
“That is a salmon rearing area with gravel beds and so on. We don’t want any kind of boat with a motor on it. There are rearing areas all along there,” Mayor Rod Peters said. “There’s a spot right across the bridge there by the old Pallies Motel, that is a salmon rearing area. We must protect it.”
Councillor Lorna Vomacka had additional concerns.
“Two things that went through my mind when I read this was the safety of tubers and kids at the Duck Pond; the other is parking down in that area because there is no parking associated with that building. It’s road access only, and is already congested with another tubing company, and businesses, and a day care there.”
Council had previously discussed the idea of prohibiting jet skis on the Cowichan River, but the issue is complicated by the fact that higher levels of government have jurisdiction over the river, not the town itself.
Alistair Crawford, a boating safety officer for Transport Canada, said there are ways the town can work with higher government to address the issue, but there are several issues at play.
“One possible solution is that from the mouth of the river to the trestle [the Greendale trestle], you could make that a ‘no power’ restriction. But, if you want to fish and drift and then motor back up the river then that’s going to impact people that use motors for that purpose,” he said.
There are three boating restrictions for the lake and river currently in place.
“The lake has a shoreline restriction from the shore to 6o metres out and within that range there is a 10 km/h maximum speed. From the mouth of the river to the trestle there is an 8 km/h speed limit and from the trestle all the way to the bridge in Duncan on the main highway that is a 9.9 hp limit.”
He advised consultation with any businesses and fisherman that use the river.
However, the idea of towing tubers up against the flow the Cowichan and also against the stream of tubes coming down was another problem.
“There’s a safety issue there. You’ve got a lot of tubers there, and other concerns. If there are fowl that are nesting at the water line, that’s another one. Wake can kill eggs. We know that. If that’s an issue, it could be addressed. There are different reasons to put restrictions in play but understand that if you do go as far as removing motor vessels that will affect other users. That’s something where we have to look at alternatives to make sure we are doing the right thing.”
He said the town can also arrange for signage and explained who has enforcement authority.
“It’s not that hard to get the artwork to you if that’s something you want to do. It would certainly help with enforcement of those restrictions,” he said. “DFO and other entities have the same enforcement capabilities as the RCMP have. There are more people that can do it. There’s Parks Canada and BC Parks have the authority as well.”
No firm decision was made Jan. 21 but council said it will continue to investigate the issue.