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RDNO Concludes Exploration of Applying for Additional Boating Regulations on the Shuswap River

Posted Thursday, June 17, 2021

For years, the Regional District of North Okanagan (RDNO) has contributed to making water bodies in the North Okanagan safer and more sustainable. One such waterway that the RDNO has worked on improving is the Shuswap River. In 2014, the RDNO developed the Shuswap River Watershed Sustainability Plan to identify current issues and set goals, objectives and strategies to address those issues. This guiding document was shared with agencies and the community to help inform decisions that impact health and safety on the river. Five out of 114 strategies in the Plan include the possible option of applying to Transport Canada for the implementation of Vessel Operating Restriction Regulations (VORR), which would add to the existing laws that apply to navigable waters in Canada.

An essential component of an application to Transport Canada is a robust consultation process and evidence of broad-based support from stakeholders. Therefore, in exploration of the feasibility of creating an application, in 2015, the RDNO undertook engagement with other governments and held several community conversations, including a professionally facilitated mediation process to identify consensus and support a strong application to Transport Canada. The mediation process resulted in mixed success but no solid agreement on what the added rules should look like on the entire river. Since this process, the RDNO has attempted to gain strong support from partners and other governments to navigate such a complex federal regulatory process successfully, but no significant progress has been made. Additionally, there is no feasible financial path to continue to fund these efforts.

Without a way forward and the impending busy recreational season on the river, the RDNO Board of Directors did not want the public to go into another summer with ambiguity on the status of the regulations process. As a result, the RDNO Board of Directors passed a resolution stating that the RDNO will not pursue additional regulations on the Shuswap River, and this file will be closed. The Board also requested that the federal and provincial governments take an increased role in addressing safety concerns on the Shuswap River.

“We want to thank everyone who has participated in this process and shared their passion for the Shuswap River. Although consensus was not reached, the process resulted in significant discoveries and discussions on the issues facing the Shuswap River, many of which can effectively be addressed through non-regulatory methods that are within the jurisdiction of the RDNO,” said Kevin Acton, Chair, RDNO Board of Directors.

The RDNO will continue to support non-regulatory actions and programs on the Shuswap River that are within the RDNO’s control. Since 2008, the RDNO has invested over $1 million into non-regulatory actions, including contributing to enhanced boat patrols on the Shuswap River, signage along the river banks, water quality assessments, the River Ambassador program, and dedicating staff time from the Safe Communities function. The enhanced boat patrol program is conducted by the provincial Conservation Officer Service and has been successful in enforcing federal and provincial laws that help keep the river safe. To further support this program, in April of 2021, the Board provided an additional $17,000 for the purchase of a new watercraft for the COS to increase safety and enforcement on the river.

The RDNO will continue to implement the Shuswap River Watershed Sustainability Plan and will work inclusively to sustain a healthy, resilient watershed where ecosystems are protected and restored, environmental and cultural values are respected, and to ensure that fish, wildlife, habitat and people thrive today and into the future.

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