This Union Bay beach area shows iron staining at low tide from March 2010. Photo, JET Productions

This Union Bay beach area shows iron staining at low tide from March 2010. Photo, JET Productions

Commercial marina again proposed for Union Bay

A previous proposal was denied due to sediment contamination

A commercial marina proposed for Union Bay is currently out for public comment, and it’s not the first time such an operation has been proposed for the site.

The Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD) has advertised a notice of intention to apply for the disposition of Crown land.

The advertisement notes that Kensington Union Bay Properties GP Ltd., known more commonly as Union Bay Estates (UBE), has applied to the ministry for an investigative licence for a commercial marina. It covers a few lots, as well as unsurveyed Crown foreshore or land covered by water. The investigative licence is temporary and would run for a two-year period.

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This marina idea has come up before. Dorrie Woodward, president of the Association for Denman Island Marine Stewards, points to information from a decade ago, during a previous proposal for a commercial marina at Union Bay, in order to raise questions about the safety of dredging or other activities after decades of old industry on site.

The area had served as a port for coal industry activities and had built up materials such as heavy metals that could pose a risk to the marine ecosystem in the Baynes Sound area, and by extension, humans.

“All of that is there beneath the sediments,” Woodward says. “It’s only in those … sediments that the past comes back to haunt us…. Stuff starts at the bottom of the food web and moves up.”

Woodward cites a report with technical comments from UBC marine researcher Dr. Juan Jose Alava that notes the presence of materials such as copper, lead, zinc, cadmium, mercury and aluminum, among others.

“Most of these contaminants are toxic, and some of them can bioaccumulate and biomagnify in the nearshore benthic and pelagic food webs with critical implications for public health and food safety for coastal communities, heavily dependent on traditional seafoods,” he writes.

As well, Woodward refers to an August 2009 decision denying the applicant, listed as 34083 Yukon Inc., an investigative licence for a commercial permit – specifically for test drilling to determine the suitability of the area for pile driving for a marina. Again, the reasoning for the decision refers to potential site contamination from the coal industry.

“Clearly, the application didn’t meet those requirements and they just said, ‘Go away,’” Woodward says. “What has changed? Where are tests? Where is the plan that would keep everything safe.”

Her concern is that the latest application is just another version for the same contaminated site. She wants any permit for activities in the harbour area to be conditional on any adjacent contaminated area being contained. She is also asking for an “ecologically sound, comprehensive plan” to be submitted that will cover the handling of any exploratory and dredged sediment in order that the material does not enter Baynes Sound, and that it is disposed of appropriately.

Woodward has sent in her comments to the provincial government about the marina application, as the ministry is taking written public comments. However, the window to provide comments about the proposed commercial marina in the Union Bay area is closing quickly. The advertisement states comments can be provided up until Nov. 20, although the online comment section of the provincial government’s website for applications says commenting will close Nov. 18.

The Record has contacted representatives from UBE and the provincial government about the proposal. At press time, ministry spokesperson Tyler Hooper confirmed members of the public are free to apply for a Crown land authorization and that the application had been received by FLNRORD. The referral period closes this week, and the project application will be subject to First Nation consultation.

“All comments during referral and consultation will be considered prior to a decision on the application,” he said.

There is more information available at bit.ly/3lyJ02l

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