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Controversial marina at Songhees clears Transport Canada hurdle

Oct 12 2012
Crews work on a barge in the water along the Songhees in Victoria in August 2011.  They were doing geotechnical testing of the seabed in preparation for construction of the Victoria International Marina. 

Crews work on a barge in the water along the Songhees in Victoria in August 2011. They were doing geotechnical testing of the seabed in preparation for construction of the Victoria International Marina.

Photograph by: Adrian Lam , Times Colonist

A controversial luxury marina could open in Victoria Harbour in the spring of 2014, now that it’s received a green light from the federal government.

Larry Halgren, project lead for the Victoria International Marina, said Thursday that a building-permit application will be submitted to Victoria City Hall later this year.

The aim is to start construction, expected to take 10 or 11 months, next year.

The 29-slip marina in front of Songhees is a joint project of WAM Development Group of Alberta and local businessman Bob Evans. Original plans called for 52 slips, but community concern prompted Victoria council to imposed restrictions that reduced moorage by half and maintained access to an adjacent park.

A provincial water lot is being leased for the marina, located between Paul Kane Place and Cooperage Place. Two one-storey commercial buildings of about 7,000 square feet each will also go up on water lots already owned by the developer. It’s expected tenants will include a restaurant.

The developer has been waiting for Transport Canada permission to proceed. Approval was granted earlier, but when zoning for the project was changed, a new application had to be submitted.

Project costs were previously estimated at $20 million; Halgren said current costs are not yet known.

Transport Canada will require several new safety measures, including markers, strobe lights, signs and increased harbour patrols.

Halgren said the next step is to meet with the architect and structural design engineer and begin finalizing designs.

Work in the water can start after July 1 under federal fisheries rules. About 60 pilings are required for the marina and more for the commercial buildings.

The site will be dredged and the marina floated in. “We’ll be removing 100-year-old wood waste from the seabed and planting three eelgrass beds along the north shore of the harbour, just west of the marina between Lime Bay and Colville Island,” Halgren said.

As for when the first boat will be moored, that’s likely in the spring of 2014, Halgren said. Boaters will lease slips under long-term agreements. So far, about eight or nine owners have reserved spots, providing $10,000 refundable deposits.

Maurine Karagianis, NDP MLA for Esquimalt-Royals Roads, slammed the federal government for altering the Environmenta Assessment Act this year, thus stopping more than 500 assessments, including the marina plan. “I know the community was really banking on that environmental assessment piece to really inform the discussions.”

The project has been the focus of community acrimony, debate, protests, public meetings, petitions, and legal action since it was announced by Evans in May 2008.

Opponents complained large yachts would block views, cause environmental harm and compromise safety in the active harbour, where floatplanes land and take off frequently. The harbour is heavily used by paddlers, small ferries, and pleasure and working vessels.

Supporters responded that a marina had always been part of the plan for Songhees and that the facility would fill a need for larger slips and boost the local economy as visitors shop and spend money on ship repairs.

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