Property owners with docks along Okanagan lake in Kelowna. Image Credit: Kevin Parnell/Kelowna Capital News

Rebuilding destroyed docks

Province still finalizing application process for property owners

The provincial government is still developing a process for property owners who may need to rebuild or replace their docks on Okanagan Lake.

That process falls under the auspices of the provincial ministry of forests, lands and natural resources, with the cabinet minister being Kelowna-Mission MLA Steve Thomson.

Dave Townsend, spokesman for the ministry, said they have received numerous calls from Kelowna lakeshore residents about that process.

At the same time, Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran made a statement at Monday’s council meeting, calling on the province to deal with the rebuilding of docks, wharves, fences and walls on the lakeshore that will keep beach access open to the public between the high and low lake water marks.

Basran said it will be several weeks before any reconstruction can begin, which Townsend reiterated is why that approval and construction process is still being finalized.

“We’re still not sure yet when the starting line will be for property owners to move forward,” he said.

Basran indicated he wanted the province to ensure residents replacing their docks are doing so with the appropriate information of what is and isn’t allowed.

“I’m hearing from a lot of people about what they want to see happen,” Basran said referring to protection of public beach access.

Townsend said the ministry has been working with the dock building industry to ensure the proper legal requirements will be met.

Two key legal aspects pointed out by Townsend were:

1) Docks that have had a piling or pilings destroyed or removed may be required to be entirely rebuilt to current standards if the structure was not conforming to current standards. The trigger for a rebuild is the replacement of a piling.

2) Property owners with docks with non-conforming or unauthorized structures (buildings, foreshore decks, etc.) will not be allowed to rebuild those structures.

Townsend also noted that most private moorage tenures require the holder to maintain public access across Crown-owned foreshore, often referred to as the high and low water marks, and that fences and docks that don’t maintain public access are subject to removal under the Land Act.

Townsend was unable to comment on how those regulations will be enforced moving forward, given that beach access being blocked by docks and fencing has already been a long-simmering point of contention among Kelowna residents.

“We will have more answers on that process as we get into the rebuilding phrase,” he said.

More information on dock building legal requirements is available online at http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/industry/natural-resource-use/land-use/crown-land/crown-land-uses/residential-uses/private moorage.

Dock building infractions can be reported by the public by either calling 1-877-92- RAPP (7277) or online at www.for.gov.bc.ca/hen/nrv/.