Contributed Example of two docks extending into private waterfront property where one structure has stairs for people to cross over it, and the other does not.

Who’s watching the dock rebuild?

Kelowna - With the season for building over, we look at the issues of docks around Okanagan Lake

The provincial government feels inroads are being made to replace docks damaged by last spring’s Okanagan Lake flooding that will allow the public proper access to the foreshore.

Bob Warner, resource manager for the Okanagan Shuswap Natural Resource District, says the ministry of forests, lands and natural resources now has an office in Kelowna to oversee the replacement and repairs to damaged docks.

Previously, provincial government staff charged with monitoring beach access regulations between the high and low water marks were based out of Vernon and Penticton, but none in Kelowna.

“We have had the office up and running since August, in the ministry of agriculture building on Powick Road. We had great uptake from the public when the office first opened,” Warner said.

The ministry also launched an information campaign with dock builders to reaffirm what is and is not allowed pertaining to docks encroaching on the Okanagan Lake foreshore, such as width, length and having steps on either side to allow for safe beach walking.

With an estimated 1,200 to 1,500 docks suffering damage due to the flooding, Warner said the fact dock building permits are up 70 per cent over last year in the Kelowna area comes as no surprise.

“Right now, all told, there are 192 applications in the processing approval system,” Warner said.

“We encourage everyone to get their permit application submitted as we are trying to expedite the process.”

But 192 is a far cry from up to 1,500, and the compliance and enforcement of beach access rules for any docks or fences are challenges that Warner knows the city is paying close attention to.

“There are terms and conditions in place that need to be adhered to, that require the proper documentation, and fines and penalties are in place if that doesn’t happen,” Warner said.

Among those watching the progress on the compliance front is Kelowna City Hall.

Mayor Colin Basran said council has heard the concerns this summer from residents about maintaining what is supposed to be public access to the lake foreshore, the ultimate vision for many being a clear public pathway that connects the various parks along the lake from City Park to Boyce-Gyro Beach Park.

“City staff are in communication with ministry staff on almost a daily basis about this and we had a meeting with our new premier at the recent Union of B.C. Municipalities convention where we talked about this issue and he is aware of it,” Basran said.

While the mayor says the city doesn’t want this issue to “fall on the back-burner,” he also acknowledges changing the culture around what private lakefront property owners can and can’t do won’t happen overnight.

While foreshore access has driven the debate, property owners also have registered concerns about vandalism of their docks and watercraft along with privacy to their own properties.

“I caution everyone that this is an issue that has built up over many years and it’s not something that can be cleaned up in a couple of weeks. It will take time to rectify.”

Warner said the rising waters warped many docks and pulled others off their foundations.

While docks built on provincial lakes are not unique to the Okanagan, Warner says the current volume of dock construction permit applications has presented challenges to the ministry.

“We’ve heard the complaints and people are aware of the fact some egregious things have been going on out there,” he said, citing examples such as chain link fences extending into the water and illegal no trespassing signs being posted.

“We have directed more resources to deal with this issue and will continue to do so moving forward.”

Warner says the dock building season essentially closed at the end of September, due to fisheries protection windows, and a significant dock repair response is expected to resume next spring.

Al Janusas, a leader in the public advocacy movement to remove illegal barriers and dock restrictions for public beach access, feels the jury is still out on how stepped up regulation enforcement is impacting the rebuilding process.

“It’s hard to tell at this point. When I go paddling along the lakeshore I see an individual or maybe a handyman doing repairs or working on a dock as opposed to a dock building operation that usually works off a barge, and I’m not sure those people feel as compelled to follow the rules and regulations the way accredited dock builders would do,” said Janusas, with the Pandosy Lakeshore Active Neighbourhoods of Kelowna Association (PLANKelowna).

“Enforcement seems to be better than it was in the past but it’s still really a minimal response for the number of docks that were destroyed by the flooding.”

Basran isn’t overlooking those concerns, saying a combination of patience and staff resources will be needed to regulate illegal structures.

“But at the end of the day, our citizens want access to the beach foreshore called for under provincial regulations and council remains committed to advocating for what is required to make that happen,” Basran said.

For more information about dock building permit applications, contact the Kelowna FrontCounter BC office at 1-877-855-3322 or go online to https://portal.nrs.gov.bc.ca/web/client/activity-page/-/activity/change_in_or_about_water

The FrontCounter office is located at 1690 Powick Rd., open Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

To report a typo, email: edit@kelownacapnews.com.


@BarryGerding
barry.gerding@blackpress.ca

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