Cruise Ship Berth Back on Track?
Last week a local paper was announcing that our cruise ship dock that promises to bring a new source of money to Nanaimo’s downtown business was cancelled. But it’s not over yet. The march towards this project which I eagerly await the completion of, is still on.
This plus all of the condos that have gone into the downtown area of late plus the expansion of the downtown mall and who could forget the giant and busy new convention centre are all very positive signs for our downtown. We’re already seeing more interesting stores and restaurants open and more people walking around downtown in the daytime. We just need to sort out the issue with the hotel that was supposed to be built and then was cancelled. I’ve heard rumours of investors from China coming in on that one but have yet to find out what the final result was.
Nanaimo will get its cruise ship dock
The Port of Nanaimo’s plan to put a $22-million cruise ship terminal on the waterfront will move ahead.
An agreement was reached between the Snuneymuxw First Nation, the port authority and the federal government that will allow the project to proceed while details of the environmental review are dealt with separately.
The project has been held up since Snuneymuxw Chief Doug White made it clear the band isn’t satisfied the Crown consulted adequately with the Snuneymuxw on the project. Concerns were raised that the project would trample Douglas Treaty rights dating back 155 years, which include protection of the fisheries.
The Nanaimo Port Authority sounded the alarm that the project was in jeopardy when the April 1 deadline passed and the impasse remained. Officials from federal departments of infrastructure and transportation flew in on Wednesday to begin face-to-face talks to resolve the matter. On Friday, the Snuneymuxw announced an agreement had been reached.
Port officials could not be immediately reached for comment, but White said he is pleased with the outcome.
“We are now supportive of the cruise ship facility because the port authority has agreed our environmental concerns need to be addressed,” White said. “The relationship the Snuneymuxw First Nation will have on an ongoing basis with the cruise ship facility is subject to negotiations.”
The agreement calls for an environmental review process that will happen independently in Nanaimo, which will allow the construction to proceed separately.
“The project can proceed,” White said. “The tendering, all that. We’ve come to an arrangement that the project can proceed.” The project was looking more and more to be doomed before Friday.
The $8.5 million in federal infrastructure funding comes with a requirement that the project must be complete by March 31. The plan is to build a dock large enough to accommodate 300-metre cruise ships but a six-month fisheries window will limit the time when construction can happen in the sensitive estuary.
Port officials warned tendering needed to get underway by
April 1, but when that deadline came and went it was moved to April 7. Without a solution reached on Wednesday, talks continued and the deadline was extended to Friday.
“It did take a bit of time,” White said. “One of the elements of this is to ensure the environmental concerns are properly addressed.” Fisheries habitat for salmon, crab and shellfish are a major part of those concerns. The federal environmental review process resulted in the creation of a detailed report on the estuary, but the report wasn’t in the federal officials’ briefcases when they arrived Wednesday.
“It should have been here today,” White said Friday. “It should arrive Monday, I guess.”
The Snuneymuxw will conduct their own environmental review during the next few months to ensure the project “proceeds in a sustainable manner,” including respecting Douglas Treaty rights, and that “potential negative impacts are minimized,” according to a press release from the band. The port authority is expected to get the federal permits it needs soon, but the Snuneymuxw will issue a report in the next month “outlining measures that need to be taken to mitigate potential impacts of the project,” the band said. The process then calls for both sides to reach an agreement on those measures, “with the help of a mediator if needed.” The partnership is expected to be complete within two months.