Docks must conform to new regulations

Owning waterfront property in the Okanagan doesn't necessarily mean you'll be able to build a dock, and permits are required first.

Covered structures such as the one at the end of this dock are not permitted under new provincial regulations.

If you think buying waterfront property in the Okanagan gives you the right to construct a dock at your door, think again.

And, if you’ve already built a dock, but haven’t first got a permit from the province, you may have to tear it out again.

In fact, even if you got a permit years ago to construct your dock and it needs some updating or restoring, be aware the renovated dock must conform to new regulations, so you’re advised to contact resource ministry staff before beginning to do the work.

Resource manager Ray Crampton in the forests, lands and natural resource operations ministry, says all private moorage and docks are now handled from the Vernon office, where Front Counter B.C. is also located now.

If the site of your proposed dock is high value spawning habitat for kokanee, you might not even be permitted to build a dock there at all.

The same holds true if there is a public safety issue with your planned dock, he added.

He warned the enforcement arm of the ministry is investigating docks throughout the Okanagan, except Peachland where the municipality has a head lease with the province and manages docks and moorage.

Both boat patrols and aerial photography are tools being used to identify what are estimated to be 1,500 to 2,000 docks on Okanagan Lake but he couldn’t put a figure on how many are non-conforming.

Senior Lands officer Liz Williamson explains that two forms of approval are required from the province for any structure on the foreshore: a specific permission is required to use the land the dock would be built on, which is Crown land if it’s below the high water mark; and a Water Act Section 9 approval is needed for making any changes in and about a stream or other body of water.

Other approvals may also be needed, for instance under the federal Fisheries Act if the structure is larger than 20 metres square.

There are specific guidelines for docks in the Okanagan-Shuswap, so it’s best to contact the Okanagan Shuswap Resource District before beginning to plan a dock, at 1-250-558-1700.

Crampton said the ministry is committed to ensure approvals are done expeditiously.

The ministry’s intent is to bring all docks into compliance in order to prevent pubic safety issues or risks to fish habitat.

In some instances, the basic dock may be in compliance, but some features may not be.

There’s no annual rental fee, just the $250 fee for the land act tenure, as well as charges for renewals or if the property changes hands.

The bottom line is standards must be followed for docks, and the ministry has notified realtors, landowners and dock builders so they can pass that information on.

“Docks being built without authorization will be shut down,” warned Crampton.