Region pursues wharf transfer from feds

The regional district was given $2.89 million to cover operational costs and maintain the infrastructure of all three port facilities

The Strathcona Regional District will apply for tenures to complete a transfer of ownership agreement for three wharves owned by the federal government.

The board, at its Wednesday meeting, approved the application for nominal rent tenures for the lots around the docks, gangways and other related structures.

The three wharves – one at Owen Bay on Sonora Island, Surge Narrows on Read Island and one at Port Neville on Johnstone Strait – were transferred to the regional district by the Government of Canada on Nov. 14.

As part of the deal, the regional district was given $2.89 million to cover operational costs and maintain the infrastructure of all three port facilities over an initial 10-year period, with the possibility of future extensions.

Director Charlie Cornfield said Wednesday that he was happy to see a deal worked out, which will ensure those communities continue to be served.

“I was really pleased to see them taken over and congratulations on the amount of money received,” Cornfield said about the transfer, which took place one day before Cornfield was re-elected to city council. “These facilities are really important to those outlying areas and to the region as a whole, so well done guys.”

Area C Director and Board Chair Jim Abram said the deal was a long time coming.

“Way too many years,” Abram said. “I give a lot of credit to (regional district CAO) Russ (Hotsenpiller) and the staff for dealing with Transport Canada staff and the patience that it took,” said Abram. “It just seemed to go on forever, and here it is.”

Area D Director Brenda Leigh asked if, while the regional district is waiting to undertake improvements on the wharves, the money transferred by the federal government will be invested by the regional district.

Abram assured Leigh that the money would sit in an account collecting interest which the regional district will be able to keep.

“The board should know that in original negotiations, the interest was not to be given to the communities, it was to go back to the feds and that was negotiated to get the interest to stay in the account for us communities to use and not give back,” Abram said.

The Strathcona Regional District is just the latest in a long line of local governments to take over ownership of public wharves from the federal government under the Port Divestiture Program.

Since 1996, Transport Canada has transferred more than 80 of its public port facilities in B.C.