Saanich Peninsula Harbours & Waterways Initiative
The Saanich Peninsula Harbours & Waterways Initiative was established in March 2021 with the approval and adoption of the Capital Regional District (CRD) Bylaw No. 4391: Saanich Peninsula Waterways Environmental Action Service Bylaw. This service was established at the request of North Saanich, Central Saanich, and Sidney for a coordinated effort on environmental issues with near-shore waters.
The purpose of this service is to coordinate and implement improvement initiatives in the harbours, waterbodies, and watercourses surrounding the Saanich Peninsula, including:
- monitoring, mapping, reporting, and public education on issues related to the marine and shore area environments;
- coordinating and collaborating with residents, public authorities, and other groups on issues relating to the marine and shore area environments; and
- implementing programs related to rehabilitation and improvement of the marine and shore area environments.
This new service will collaborate with First Nations, community groups and all levels of government to find solutions for a number of key, region-specific issues.
Boats have been identified as a priority area for this service, including waste discharge, litter, abandoned and derelict boats, private mooring buoys, navigation safety, water quality, and environmental degradation.
Initial work through 2022 will focus on consultation with municipal and First Nations staff, and coordination between all levels of government to develop a work plan for this initiative. These conversations will form a terms of reference and workplan for this new CRD service.
The area is known as Tsehum Harbour (W̱SE¸IKEM) in SENĆOŦEN, or Shoal Harbour. Tsehum Harbour is a place of significant cultural significance to the W̱SÁNEĆ people as a traditional fishing and shellfish harvesting location for more than 10,000 years.
The Marine Task Force final report (2008) recommended that “North Saanich should join with Sidney to either expand the scope of the existing Tsehum Harbour Commission [Tsehum Harbour Authority] or form a new one, which could, at a later date, be expanded to include all of the District’s shoreline. The mandate and role need to be further developed and discussed to monitor and trigger enforcement by the responsible bodies for issues such as inappropriate buoy placement, transient moorage, derelict boats, fire protection, and waste discharges”.
One action item from the resulting staff report, the Marine Task Force Final Report Recommendation on Implementation (2008), was that the District was to “Enter into preliminary discussions with the Town of Sidney and the Tsehum Harbour Commission and report back to Council.” An effort to form a stakeholder working group in 2008 in order to study this recommendation was unsuccessful. The District’s Strategic Plan subsequently noted the Shoal Harbour Bird Sanctuary as an initiative since 2009. In 2011, the Friends of Shoal Harbour (FOSH) was formed; since its inception, FOSH has advocated for an integrated management plan.
On February 10, 2020 Council received a staff report that outlined the possible roles for the District in the Shoal Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary Integrated Management Plan (Tsehum Harbour). Council directed staff to:
- Include consideration of a designation specifically for Tsehum Harbour, the inclusion of a special development permit area, and stricter policies on permissions and placement of structures as part of the OCP review (possible role #3)
- Explore the possibility of joining the CRD Harbour Program Service (possible role #5)
- Report back on the possibility to work further with the Town of Sidney on an integrated management plan (possible role #1) after receiving correspondence from the Tsehum Harbour stakeholder group and further discussion with the Town of Sidney.
November 16, 2020, Council received the Shoal Harbour(Tsehum Harbour) Update staff report that provided an update on the progress of these possible roles. Ultimately conversations between the District of North Saanich, District of Central Saanich, the Town of Sidney, and the CRD progressed and the three municipalities wrote a letter to the CRD to request to join the service.