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Director favours no service to island during terminal upgrades

Patrick Brabazon outlines options for estimated two-month project
Laura Walz

One of the options for dealing with ferry service during the rebuild of the Westview and Little River terminals is not to have service between Powell River and Vancouver Island, according to a Powell River Regional District director.

Patrick Brabazon, Electoral Area A director who sits as a regional district representative on the Northern Sunshine Coast Ferry Advisory Committee, said at the April 26 board meeting that it was undecided at this point whether BC Ferries would: shut down Westview and operate out of Saltery Bay to Little River; shut down Little River and operate out of Buckley Bay, a terminal 20 kilometers south of Courtenay that serves Denman Island; or shut down both terminals and have no ferry service to Vancouver Island for that period of time. “Give me my druthers, I’d say shut down both terminals and get it all over with,” Brabazon said. “I say we have to look at it realistically, not only from BC Ferries’ point of view—none of us here have much sympathy for them—but from the public’s point of view. Are you going to have a four month interruption, two months over here, two months over there, or do you want one shut down and get both terminals rebuilt?”

Colin Palmer, board chair, said he thinks he would prefer interruptions rather than closures. “What’s going to happen on Texada?” he asked.

Brabazon said Texada would be going to Saltery Bay.

Dave Murphy, Texada Island director, said he thought the island could operate fairly well with barge service for vehicles and a water taxi. “If they have plenty of notice, maybe they can bring their vehicle over to Powell River and leave it here,” he said. “Dan Devita at the [Texada Island Inn] has run shuttle service for us on the island in the past, so some arrangement can be made, I think.”

Brabazon pointed out that public consultation will start this year and there will be time for the public to decide. “I think a knee-jerk reaction that says, ‘Oh, no, don’t shut it down,’ is. . . I don’t think that’s a wise answer,” he said. “I think it’s a case where you really want to consider the pros and cons both ways.”

Brabazon was reporting on the April 24 meeting of the committee with BC Ferries’ representatives. Stephen Mayall, BC Ferries’ project manager, terminal construction, provided an update on the project, which he described as major. For Westview, the plan includes replacing the trestle from the shore to the ramp, the ramp, aprons, the towers on the side of the ramp, the structure where the ship berths and the outer dolphin. At Little River, the plan is to replace the ramp, the apron, the towers and the outer dolphin.

The work will require the berth closure, Mayall said. He said there hasn’t been a decision on whether both berths would be closed at the same time or if the work will be done separately. “This is a subject for discussion further down the line,” he said.

As for when the work will take place, Mayall said, the company is looking at two options: October and November 2013 or February and March 2014.

The company expects to have set the time for when the berth is going to be closed by the end of May, Mayall said, as well as an outline of the options for service. “Obviously, I think Saltery Bay will be key in any alternate service that we provide here,” he said. “Where we go from Saltery for Route 17, Route 18, we need to look at options.”

Once the company has an outline of the options that are feasible, Mayall said, which he believes would be in June, company representatives would come back to the ferry advisory committee and key stakeholders and have a discussion. “The one thing that we have found throughout doing berth closures is every community is different and has different needs and requirements,” he said.

Public open houses would follow, Mayall said. “I think after the public open houses, there may be a need for further refining of the preferred option, with the final goal that by October this year we know what the plan is going to be.”

That will provide a year for everyone to plan for the event, Mayall added.

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