Council’s dream of starting much-anticipated improvements to Big Rock Boat Ramp this year have been crushed as the city failed to secure the necessary approvals in time.
City staff had warned council late last year that authorization to do the construction work within a narrow fisheries window may not come in time but council nonetheless was optimistic and had budgeted the project for 2017.
But about a month ago, council received the disappointing news that the review and environmental approval process required by Fisheries and Oceans Canada for the project would extend beyond the available 2017 construction window due to a change in criteria.
At last week’s council meeting, Coun. Michele Babchuk said she wanted to make it clear that council had every intention of moving forward this spring and summer with in-water works at Big Rock such as replacing the ramp, dredging the basin and relocating and enlarging the two protective ‘groin’ structures.
“I just wanted to say I am a little saddened at the fact that we weren’t able to move this a little faster,” Babchuk said. “I would just like to mention this was not our initiative to move this to 2018, this was something that happened out of our control with that new criteria and to let the public know that it’s not us that’s holding this up.”
The silver lining, however, is that the delay allows council to re-evaluate any issues it may have with the scope of the project.
“With a 2017 construction start now not possible, opportunity exists within the schedule for additional design work to modify the project scope for phase one (in-water works) to more closely meet council’s objectives,” said Ron Neufeld, deputy city manager and general manager of operations.
And at the May 23 council meeting, council went ahead and added two additional improvements to phase one – floating ramps and a fish cleaning station, which was originally part of phase two, the upland upgrades.
“I think it is representative of what we heard from the public. Both the floating ramp and the fish cleaning station were clearly identified as initiatives the public wanted to see,” said Coun. Colleen Evans, adding that having to wait until 2018 to begin construction allows the city to make the boat ramp truly a state-of-the-art boat launch. “This needs to be something that is really a shining example of Campbell River and I think we now have the opportunity to review all aspects of it.”
Coun. Larry Samson agreed.
“Because we have been dealt this deck of cards by DFO (Fisheries and Oceans), we’ve got a chance to do it right and we’re only going to get this one chance so I think it’s important that we nail this and we do get it right,” Samson said. “It’s a chance for the public, if they see something that they would like or that we’ve missed, to come forward cause I think this is our opportunity to nail it.”
On top of the in-water works, the project involves the addition of public washrooms as well as parking lot upgrades as part of the second phase. That portion of the project, however, will likely be undertaken in conjunction with the Highway 19 upgrades from the Simms Creek Lift Station to roughly Rockland Road.
The total cost of the project is estimated at $1.6 million which just exceeds the $1.1 million council set aside for the project.
City staff is expected, however, to come back with possible scenarios for addressing the budget shortfall which will be considered by council in December when it plans out its budget for 2018.