The topic of noisy boats on Shuswap Lake made a few waves at Sicamous council.
At the April 28 district council meeting, Sicamous Coun. Ryan Airey had a notice of motion on the agenda with the recommendation that staff be directed to research options to regulate excessive boat noise. Airey opened discussion, however, with an acknowledgement that regulation of boat noise on navigable waters isn’t within the district’s jurisdiction.
“I’ve been asked by residents over the past few years about restrictions on boat noise and I haven’t said much about it because it’s not really our place as a municipality to be regulating noise on the lake,” he said.
Airey did mention the recently formed Shuswap and Mara Lakes Decibel Coalition, and its plans to monitor noise levels coming from watercraft on the lakes, paying particular attention to large speed boats, also referred to as cigarette boats.
“All I’m really looking for here is we be aware of what these organizations are doing, and if we want to show them support,” said Airey, adding he finds the noise from particular boats an impediment to other people’s enjoyment of the lake.
Stressing the district’s jurisdiction on the lake ends at the high-water mark, Coun. Jeff Mallmes suggested little could be done to restrict the noisier boats, and that Sicamous should leave them be.
“It’s boys with toys, we are a boating community,” said Mallmes. “We’re promoting ourselves as a boating community… If it has boat in the word, it’s Sicamous. I would not be in favour of anything that takes away from the boating community in the district of Sicamous, of any style of boat.”
Coun. Malcolm Makayev agreed noise was an issue, but didn’t want to commit staff time to anything to do with regulation. He suggested letting the Decibel Coalition and the Columbia Shuswap Regional District keep track of the data, and rely on information from them.
Coun. Gord Bushell agreed that the District of Sicamous shouldn’t be involved in regulation.
“It gets pretty noisy out there and if you don’t live out on the lake, you don’t know,” said Bushell. “I hear where you’re coming from Ryan, it is a problem in some areas but there’s nothing we can do about it until Transport Canada does something.”
Airey said he did not intend for the district to get involved in regulation, but he did think it important that it get behind the Decibel Coalition and “organizations advocating for a respectful boating environment.”
“I also feel our rights to use a watercraft needs to be balanced with other users’ rights,” said Airey. “In the case of smaller watercraft and unpowered watercraft, these big boats, I think they are more harm than they are benefit from an economic point of view.”
Town manager Evan Parliament offered to draft a new motion that would encourage staff to lobby Transport Canada regarding council and community concerns related to boat noise, noting it’s no different than Victoria and Vancouver lobbying to control the noise of float planes. Council agreed to this unanimously.
The Shuswap and Mara Lakes Decibel Coalition plans to outfit its members with portable decibel meters to collect noise readings from boats this summer, focusing on boats the group believes to have illegal exhaust systems.
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