Kootenay-Columbia MP Wayne Stetski has recently been pressing new federal Minister of Transport Marc Garneau to adopt a 20-horsepower limit for watercraft on the main stem of the Upper Columbia River between Golden and Invermere.

Motorized access is already restricted in the side channels and wetlands of the Columbia River between the two communities, and the idea to put some kind of limit on the main part of the river first gained traction more than 10 years ago when Stetski was the East Kooteany regional manager of fish and wildlife.

“The initial proposal was for no boats, but after consulting with hunters and trappers, it was decided that perhaps a 10-horsepower limit on the main stem (of the Columbia) was more appropriate,” Stetski told The Echo. “Then, after much to and fro between local officials and various stakeholder groups, a 20-horsepower limit was settled on.”

Stetski had already left the regional manager of fish and wildlife position by the time the 20-horsepower limit was agreed upon, but from what he understands, a proposal for this limit — formally called the Regulations Amending the Vessel Operation Restriction Regulations (VORR) — was sent to the federal Ministry of Transport at least three years ago.

“And that’s where it is now, waiting for a response,” he said. “So I have sent a letter to the (new) Minister of Transport, encouraging him to sign it.”

Stetski pointed out the 20-horsepower limit decision was a long process involving local governments from Invermere, Radium Hot Springs, Golden, all the surrounding rural areas, and a large number of stakeholder groups.

“There is still a small group of people opposed, but, by far, the vast majority of stakeholders who have been working on this decision for at least 10 years were in favour of that 20-horsepower limit. And, in talking with them, they are still in favour of getting this regulation in place. It would be really good to see it brought to conclusion, since it was a true compromise and it took a long time to arrive at that consensus,” he said. “It’s pretty important for long-term protection. It prevents small, fast watercraft and jet boats from ripping up and down the main stem of the Columbia. The potential for that problem is there because there has been interest in jet boating there.”

Boats falling under the 20-horsepower limit (and still allowed on the river under the new regulation) would include typical 14-foot (four-metre) open aluminum fishing boats.

Stetski sent the letter to Garneau on February 25th and in it Steski outlines how the proposal represents a compromise between many groups, the importance of the horsepower limit to the long-term health of the Columbia River and its wetlands, and finishes by saying, “I strongly urge you to move this file forward and begin the implementation of the proposed VORR amendment as quickly as possible.”

In order for the proposed regulation to become an actual regulation, the approval of the minister and the federal cabinet is needed.