By David F. Rooney
At the moment David Adshead’s proposal to offer jet-boat tours of the Columbia River between the Revelstoke Dam and Begbie Falls is just that — a proposal — but if he manages to secure all of the federal and provincial approvals it could be a reality by next summer. However, the first step in that process is a big one.
“The first step is getting permission from the City,” he said in an interview Friday, adding that he would like to use the boat launch at Centennial Park as the pick-up and drop-off point for his tours and that concerns some local environmentalists.
“The business license application by Revelstoke Natural Resources Limited has triggered a recognition that the City of Revelstoke and the CSRD needs policy in place to manage the use of the Columbia River and the drawdown zone in this area,” says a letter from the North Columbia Environmental Society issued late Friday afternoon.
Sent to Revelstoke Mayor Dave Raven, all members of City Council and CSRD Area B Director Loni Parker, the letter urges them to recognize “the special environmental status” of the river between the dam and Shelter Bay and wants them to “to promote only compatible public use of the area, and to develop strategies and regulations that will control public and commercial use of the area, and to specifically not allow motorized commercial businesses within this area.”
“… the NCES is concerned about impacts on critically sensitive ecological systems, shoreline integrity, wetland conservation, nesting habitat, flyover rest areas for migratory species, endangered and blue listed species,” the letter said. “Speed boat motorized recreation is incompatible; causing disturbances such as, but not excluding; wake, wave, pollution (noise, air, water), and shoreline erosion.”
But Adshead, a falling contractor and proprietor of Revelstoke Natural Resources Ltd. who needs to diversify given the poor state of forestry in British Columbia, maintains that his proposed operation, which could also draw more visitors downtown from the Trans-Canada Highway, would have a very low environmental impact.
His 22-foot Harbercraft is powered by a 325 HP Chevy V8 engine that is, he says, surprisingly quiet.
“It’s not a little two-stroke like (the motors on those annoying-sounding jet skis),” he said. “You can sit in the boat and actually carry on a conversation while it’s running.”
He said his tours would be limited to speeds of 25 mph and would carry six people at a time.
“The type of tourism I’m looking to do would be pretty low impact,” Adshead said. “It’s not adrenaline-type stuff. I want to show we are not a log-it-and-leave-it community.”
Aimed at environmentally conscious Europeans and other visitors his tours would seek to give them a glimpse of the eagles, ospreys and other creatures that use the river with as little disturbance as possible. He also noted that boat tours were once operated from Woodenhead Park several years ago so there is a precedent for that kind of business.
Does City Council have an appetite for this? Who knows.
City Councillor Antoinette Halberstadt did raise the issue at last Tuesday’s Council meeting and presented information she hopes Councillors will consider when they meet as a Committee of the Whole on Tuesday afternoon.
“My understanding is that basically all a business licence involves is the City giving him permission to sell tickets,” she said in an e-mail to The Revelstoke Current. “We don’t have any jurisdiction over protecting environmental and community values when it comes to activities that are on the water. However, the CSRD could have powers if they had bylaws like they do in the Fairmont area in the RDEK, where they’ve zoned the surface of the water.”