Salmon Arm Bay foreshore. (File photo)

Regulating drones harassing birds tricky for Salmon Arm council

City seeks clarity and options on restricting drone use in sensitive ecological areas

Salmon Arm council is not about to zoom into the role of regulating drones, but it would like more information made available to the public.

Faced with complaints about drones on the foreshore from the Shuswap Naturalist Club and the Salmon Arm Bay Nature Enhancement Society (SABNES), council had asked city staff in February to investigate the cost of signage.

“Incidents have been reported to us at both Peter Jannink Park and the wharf where wildlife, including Western Grebes and ospreys, were being disturbed. In one case a drone was hovering over the osprey nest at the wharf, greatly distressing the osprey in the nest,” stated a letter from the two groups.

Council also sent a resolution to SILGA, the Southern Interior Local Government Association, in hopes it would be endorsed and sent to the Union of BC Municipalities for the fall convention. The resolution asked that the federal and provincial governments collaborate to provide clarity and options for local governments in restricting the use of drones in local sensitive ecological areas.

Read more: Drones reported to be disturbing bird sanctuary

Read more: 2018 – Canada to impose stricter rules for drones next year

Read more: A bird’s eye view of Salmon Arm

Read more: New drone sighting shuts down London’s Gatwick, again

Read more: 2017 – Drones used for search for clues about missing women

The city’s Rob Niewenhuizen presented council with a report on drones at its April 23 meeting.

He said Transport Canada regulates drones or UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) as they’re commonly called. If under 35 kg or 77 lbs, they’re considered recreational. If over that, they require an extensive licence, almost like a pilot’s.

Operators of larger drones should file a flight record if they’re going to be near Salmon Arm’s airport, he said.

The Transport Canada website has an incident report, where the public can submit a complaint to investigate.

“Rules are still a little vague as far as the responsibilities for municipalities,” Niewenhuizen noted, adding that Transport Canada’s role as regulator doesn’t preclude a municipality from regulating.

The city doesn’t have control over the lake, however, as that’s a provincial matter.

“In summary, essentially, if a UAV or drone is being flown improperly…, you can report it through Transport Canada, the RCMP or, if interacting with wildlife, through the RAPP (Report all Poachers and Polluters) line.”

The RAPP line deals with human/wildlife conflicts.

He said if the city puts signs up, there’s no way to provide enforcement without a bylaw. And if the city creates a bylaw, it will have to enforce it.

Coun. Tim Lavery asked several questions, including, if there’s a complaint, how do you know which drone it was and who was flying it.

Niewenhuizen noted that a drone flying at the foreshore may have been flying from the Prestige hotel, which is private property so can’t be regulated. However, if a drone is bothering wildlife, a call to the RAPP line would be in order.

Mayor Alan Harrison said a person at Lakeside Manor asked him if there could be anything done about the drones that have come by her window.

Harrison said he’d like informational signage to be considered, not signage requiring a bylaw.

Council decided to wait to see what SILGA will do with the city’s resolution. Niewenhuizen also pointed out that new Transport Canada rules will be coming into effect on June 1 of this year.


@SalmonArm
marthawickett@saobserver.net

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