Western Pacific Marine will build the new Kootenay Lake ferry on this private property next to John’s Walk in Nelson. Photo: Tyler Harper

Western Pacific Marine will build the new Kootenay Lake ferry on this private property next to John’s Walk in Nelson. Photo: Tyler Harper

Nelson council approves permit for ferry construction

The new Kootenay Lake Ferry will be built on the city’s waterfront

Nelson council voted unanimously on Feb. 9 to approve construction by Western Pacific Marine of the $63-million Kootenay Lake ferry on the empty Nelson Landing property just east of the Nelson bridge.

“This is a positive step forward for the community and I am looking forward to seeing this project take shape,” said Mayor John Dooley after the vote.

The construction will begin this spring and proceed through fall 2022.

Council’s six conditions

Council attached six conditions to its approval of the temporary use permit to build the ferry:

• The construction must comply with Nelson’s noise control bylaw.

That bylaw states that construction in the city may not occur before 7 a.m. and after 10 p.m., and not on Sundays. Noise is defined in the bylaw as sound that disturbs “the quiet peace, rest, enjoyment, comfort, or convenience of any person or persons in the neighbourhood or vicinity.”

Craig Jackson of Western Pacific Marine, present at the meeting, said the average workday will be 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and that anything outside those hours will be designated quiet work.

The construction site will be about 500 metres from the easternmost house on Sproat Drive and the properties most impacted by noise will be those on Bealby Point Road.

• The company must develop a traffic management plan.

There will be 40-to-60 people working on the site, arriving and leaving through one access point at the Fourth Street rail crossing.

The company says there will be an average of six large trucks per week. As for access by workers, the company has agreed to discuss with the city the possibility of carpooling or shuttle services for workers.

There will be no construction parking on Sproat Drive.

The city previously conducted a traffic study done for the proposed Nelson Landing housing project. It concluded that Sproat Drive could handle the traffic for up to 72 residential units.

This is the site plan for the ferry’s construction. The orange line denotes a berm and fence surrounding the assembly area. The yellow line will be a new walking route for residents on their way to and from Red Sands Beach, which is located a short distance past the top of the image. Illustration courtesy Ward Engineering and Land Surveying Ltd.

This is the site plan for the ferry’s construction. The orange line denotes a berm and fence surrounding the assembly area. The yellow line will be a new walking route for residents on their way to and from Red Sands Beach, which is located a short distance past the top of the image. Illustration courtesy Ward Engineering and Land Surveying Ltd.

Councillor Rik Logtenberg said the new bike route that runs down Third Street will mean there will be more cyclists in the general area and that the transportation plan must consider this.

He also urged city staff to make sure the transportation plan is well thought out and takes residents’ concerns seriously.

The company has committed to relocating the waterfront pathway during construction to allow pedestrian access to Red Sands Beach.

• Western Pacific Marine must agree to repair access streets to pre-construction condition when the project is complete.

• Lighting must be arranged so that it does not shine outward from the site.

• The company must communicate with the neighbouring community at least once every two months to provide information and address concerns.

A city staff report states that the company held an online public information session on Jan. 22 with about 34 people in attendance.

• The company must submit a fire and emergency plan acceptable to the fire chief.

Questions and an endorsement from council

Logtenberg asked how these conditions will be enforced, and city manager Kevin Cormack said violation of them could result in the city cancelling the permit.

Councillor Keith Page asked how and why this site was chosen.

Jackson replied that another industrial area in the city (near the mouth of Cottonwood Creek) was considered but it was unsuitable because the water is too shallow and because the finished ferry would not fit under the bridge. He said extensive research went into finding a suitable site.

Councillor Jesse Woodward asked about possible environmental damage and Cormack said the company will have get various permits from the federal and provincial governments related to building near water.

The new ferry, which the province said will be fully electric by 2030, replaces the 67-year-old MV Balfour. Both the MV Balfour and the MV Osprey 2000 are run by Western Pacific Marine and run between terminals at Balfour and Kootenay Bay.

Although council had many questions, mostly about traffic and noise, their reasons for voting in favour were encapsulated by Councillor Jesse Woodward.

“I think that there has to be an acknowledgement that this area will be built up, and there will be construction for a long time into the future,” he said. “I do understand people are concerned, but there is a lot of mitigation going into this.”

He said there would be positive effects including providing employment during the pandemic.

“We are building an innovative ferry in Nelson. There will be spinoff, with people spending money. I know there are concerns, I have read all the letters. But there are a lot of positives.”

Related: Proposal to build new Kootenay Lake ferry in Nelson


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