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Seaplane base upgrades approved by City of Powell River council

Votes favour spending up to $125,000 to replace floats on Powell Lake
APPROVE EXPENDITURE: City councillors voted to expend up to $125,000 to replace the seaplane base floats at Powell Lake so Harbour Air can begin a commercial flight service to downtown Vancouver in March.

An expenditure of up to $125,000 to replace the city’s seaplane base floats on Powell Lake has been approved by City of Powell River councillors.

At the January 20 city council meeting, councillors approved the expenditure to come from the Canada Community-Building Fund reserve, to which money is provided annually by the federal government from gas taxes.

Councillor Rob Southcott said councillors had received a report on the initiative at the January 18 committee of the whole meeting and there was hope that Harbour Air would start serving this community with two regularly scheduled flights per day to the seaplane dock.

“The dock was acquired decades ago and, I can say from personal observation, has had minimal maintenance for a very long time,” said Southcott. “The last time I was down there I wondered if it was safe. It is structurally still sound, but it needs a fair bit of upgrading to provide what is really an essential service for our community, seeing as we are isolated.

“The Canada Community-Building Fund reserve, we used to call the community works fund, is funded through gas tax money, so it is a reserve fund that in recent years has been increased considerably from the federal government to cover, particularly, infrastructure projects exactly like this. So, I do support this recommendation.”

Councillor Cindy Elliott said she hadn’t been aware that the city had a public seaplane base until the report came forward two days previously. She said it is an asset worth having and it’s exciting that Harbour Air wants to have regular service into the community.

“Whether they did or didn’t, we really should be maintaining that asset and making sure it is publicly usable and accessible as per our responsibility to do that,” said Elliott. “I’m really happy this has come forward. It’s very timely. I hope we can get the dock upgraded in time for Harbour Air to use it in a safe manner.

“If they end up not using it, and we upgrade it anyhow, other people could use it in a safe manner, which is a good thing.”

Councillor Maggie Hathaway said she had a question about how much money is in the community-building reserve.

Chief administrative officer Russell Brewer said he believes there is between $1.1 and $1.2 million in the fund.

Council voted unanimously for the expenditure.

According to Harbour Air’s website, the airline plans to start flying the route on March 7.

At the January 18 committee of the whole meeting, director of properties, development and communications Scott Randolph said Harbour Air agreed to establish the flight 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, he added.

“Staff believe that pursuing these improvements is beneficial for the 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 received, the estimated cost of constructing and installing the new floats is approximately $125,000.