Provincial government torpedoes third successive marina application over unmitigated habitat concerns and lack of First Nations consultation

By Steve Hubrecht

The latest proposal put forward by the Pedley Heights Community Association to create a marina on the east side of Lake Windermere has been shot down by the provincial government.

Residents in Pedley Heights, an unincorporated community consisting of upland properties with a single shared access point on the lake, have been trying for years to create a dock or marina with boat slips. The latest application from the community association was formally filed in late 2020, and is at least the third attempt to establish a marina at Pedley Heights. In March, it became the third such application to be rejected.

Each successive marina proposal by the Pedley Heights Community Association has been smaller in scope; initially, the plan was for a 120 boat slip marina. After that was turned down, a second plan envisioned a 90 boat slip marina. That plan was also vetoed.

The latest plan was smaller still, calling for docks with berths for 60 boat slips, a main dock structure 147 metres long and three finger docks, each 36 metres long, with up to 12 circular concrete blocks acting as anchors for the docks. Each concrete block was to have been 91 centimetres in diameter and 30 centimetres thick.

But this proposal too was torpedoed just last month by the provincial government. The decision was made on Tuesday, Mar. 8, by the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources Operations (FLNRO) Kootenay Boundary Region Authorizations Director Tracy Ronmark. 

In her reasons for the decision, Ronmark wrote that the Lake Windermere Management Plan identifies sensitive habitat (‘orange’) zoning along the same portion of the lakeshore where the marina would be built and that habitat “mitigation concerns remain”. 

Ronmark also noted that the marina proponents were required to engage with Indigenous peoples prior to submitting the application, but had failed to do so adequately. “Consent (for local First Nations) has not been attained, nor has adequate accommodation measures been described,” she wrote. 

She noted that First Nations consultation was carried by FLNRO staff, and that concerns identified by responding First Nations were not mitigated in the proposal.

Sensitive habitat concerns and lack of First Nations consultations had also been cited among the reasons that the previous marina proposals had been rejected.

The application was submitted on behalf of the Pedley Heights Community Association by developer Mark Vosler. The Pioneer attempted to get comment on the decision from Vosler, but was unable to reach him prior to press deadline. Pedley Heights is part of Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) Area F. 

Pedley Heights is part of Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) Area F. 

Area F Director Susan Clovechok told the Pioneer, “there are people on both sides of the issue. Some will be thrilled with this decision. Others will be disappointed. I know people in both camps. The applications went through a process, due diligence was done, and the decision was made. That’s why we have these processes.”

The Pioneer also contacted the Lake Windermere Ambassadors, and that organization also pointed to the Lake Windermere Management Plan, noting that the plan does not generally support new private marinas or the expansion of existing marinas.

In a 2021 letter, on the topic of Pedley Heights marina proposal, the Ambassadors had written that although it would give Pedley Heights Community Association residents and Baltac Community Association residents access to the lake, the proposed marina would be of minimal social or economic benefit to the general public. 

“Over the years, an increase in non-motorized boat usage has been observed. The lake management committee is concerned for the safety and enjoyment of all lake users if an additional marina increases motorized boat usage on the lake. Additionally, due to the minimal depth of Baltac Bay, it is likely that the proposed moorage facility will impede existing public access at high water,” wrote the Ambassadors in the letter.