British Columbia

Province extends comment period for Kootenay ferry relocation

Residents worried about changes to their ferry service have been given an extension to voice concerns to the province.

Opponents raise concerns about impacts on local business and environment

The Balfour Ferry Terminal could be abandoned and moved further north to Queen's Bay (Curtis Andersen/Google Earth)

Concerned B.C. residents have three more months to comment on a government plan to relocate one of the Kootenay Lake ferry landings.

The existing western terminal is located at Balfour, where it first opened in 1947. But a Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) plan would see the terminal moved to Queen's Bay, further north up Kootenay Lake.

The period for public comment was scheduled to end last week, but now residents will have till October to submit their feedback.

While the plan itself is contentious among local residents, the extension for public comment is welcome news.

"The government dropped a 176-page bombshell on the community and gave us less than a month to respond to it," said Robin Goldsbury, an opponent to the plan.

Needed maintenance

According to the government report, "recent studies have revealed significant navigation issues in the west arm that will require dredging."

In addition, MOTI said the site is no longer ideal to handle the increasing levels of ferry traffic, which are impacting the area.

The province says the narrow channels at Balfour are causing damage to the ferry's propellers (Province of B.C.)

The narrow channel is difficult to navigate, which is causing damage to ferry propellers, according to government documents.

The plan to relocate the terminal is one of two options, the other being extensive maintenance to the existing terminal in Balfour.

Economic and environmental impacts

According to a citizens' group called 'Choose Balfour,' dozens of businesses have developed in the area specifically because of traffic from the terminal.

The group says 60 people depend on the ferry for work, directly and indirectly. Members say those jobs, and the entire economy around Balfour are at risk if the relocation goes ahead. 

The group also expressed concerns about environmental impacts to wildlife and fish habitats through the relocation.

The provincial government is considering relocating the Balfour Ferry Terminal to further north on Kootenay Lake, at Queen's Bay. Residents opposing the project have just been given a three-month extension to provide public comment. (Province of B.C.)

Petition nearing goal

Another opponent, John Betts, said while he is pleased with the extension, doesn't mean the government is necessarily willing to listen to the public's concerns.

"We want to have more than an opportunity to send in emails and petitions," said Betts. "We want to work with the government."

As of Wednesday, an online petition, "Stay the Course: Preserve Queens Bay, Choose Balfour Ferry Landing," has garnered 1,625 signatures, two-thirds of the way to the goal of 2,500.

The new deadline for public comment is now Oct. 6, 2016.

With files from Bob Keating


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