The federal government has jurisdiction over harbours in Canyon Creek, Faust and Joussard. It wants to get rid of them, having no interest in recreational (as opposed to commercial) harbours.
This is not news. It has been in the air since the province shut down the commercial fishing industry about five years ago. The feds are ‘divesting’ harbours in similar situations all over the country. What has been troubling members of the Canyon Creek community generally (and the Canyon Creek Harbour Authority specifically) is the future of the harbour. Who gets control of it? Who gets first dibs?
This was the background for last week’s meeting of the harbour authority.
“The fear is if it goes private we won’t get onto the water,” said CCHA member Brad Pearson.
Pearson had dug up information from the Fisheries and Oceans Canada (CFO) website on the harbour divestiture process, which he had printed off. He handed out copies with some highlighted bits.
“We provide the necessary harbour repairs and environmental clean-up prior to a transfer…” it says. “Harbours are usually transferred to: Provinces, municipalities, First Nations, other federal departments, not-for-profit organizations.”
Two reps from CFO were at the meeting. One of them, Chantal Delarochelle, cleared a few things up. The preference is to turn the harbours over to municipalities, she said. And ‘expressions of interest’ are on file from both the M.D. of Lesser Slave River and Big Lakes County for the three harbours on Lesser Slave Lake. But the transfer is at least five years away, because there’s no money in the budget.
The land actually belongs to the province, but the province “wants nothing to do with these sites,” Delarochelle said. She clarified that all the CFO controls and will be handing off is the “assets” of the harbour – meaning docks, breakwater and what have you.
Delarochelle added that she is well aware of the community concerns about the harbour in Canyon Creek, and repeated that the preference of the department would be to turn it over to the municipality when the time comes.
In case there was any doubt about how seriously the M.D. takes it, most of council was there with their CAO. Lake access is tied to economic development, Pearson pointed out, more than once. The long-term health of the community depends on it.
If commercial fishing is ever restored, the scenario would change. A majority of former commercial fishermen on the CCHA board suggests they think that might happen.