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City of Powell River seaplane dock requires replacement

Harbour Air wants to use base on Powell Lake for flight operations
NEW CONNECTION: City of Powell River will vote on a $125,000 expenditure to replace the seaplane floats at Powell Lake so Harbour Air can begin a commercial flight service to downtown Vancouver.

City of Powell River council will consider spending up to $125,000 to replace the city’s seaplane base floats on Powell Lake.

At the January 18 committee of the whole meeting, director of properties, development and communications Scott Randolph outlined a proposal by Harbour Air to establish a direct flight service between the seaplane base on Powell Lake and downtown Vancouver.

According to Harbour Air, the airline plans to start flying the route on March 7 with two flights daily.

Randolph said the city has a seaplane base at the lake. He said the floats need to be replaced and redesigned to allow for increased air service to the community, and also to ensure the safety of the public.

“It’s been left for some time and we’ve invested very little in it,” said Randolph. “We entered into an agreement for this tenure with the province, by our estimate, in 1981. We renewed an agreement with them in 2011 for another 30-year term.

“Under the agreement, the city is responsible for the infrastructure there.”

Randolph said it is the only Transport Canada-certified seaplane base in the region. It’s the only location where commercial carriers can operate, he added.

“Currently, the floats are in very poor condition and are needing to be replaced,” said Randolph.

He said Harbour Air agreed to establish the flights if the city can make improvements to the facility. It was decided, after review, to dispose of the current floats and construct new floats to ensure seaplanes can safely dock at the facility and that passengers can load and unload in a safe manner.

“Staff believe that pursuing these improvements is beneficial for residents and businesses as an additional transportation link for the community,” said Randolph.

In December 2021, the city put out a request for quotes to construct the needed floats. Based on the quotes that were received, the estimated cost of constructing and installing the new floats is approximately $125,000.

Randolph said after discussing the matter with chief financial officer Adam Langenmaier, it was identified that the project would be appropriate to use the Canada community-building fund to pay for the new floats. This fund is the fuel tax money the city receives from the federal government, according to Randolph.

He said the intention for the new seaplane base would be the collection of $12 per passenger for every person who departs the base by an air carrier. The fee already exists under a city bylaw at Powell River Airport.

Randolph said the recommendation for councillors is that council approve an expenditure of up to $125,000 from the Canada community-building fund reserve to replace the city’s seaplane base floats on Powell Lake. Randolph requested that council deal with the matter at its January 20 meeting.

Councillor George Doubt said it was nice to see the potential of some competition for airline services to the community.

“I think a seaplane connection would be a valuable addition to the community,” said Doubt. “I like the idea of collecting airport tax from seaplane passengers as well as wheel-based passenger-carrying airplanes to cover future costs of maintenance.”

Doubt said dragon boats are currently tied to the seaplane dock and he wondered if the airline initiative would interfere.

Randolph said he is sure there is a way that the dragon boats can make use of the dock.

The committee gave unanimous consent to send the matter to the January 20 council meeting.