Column: Process must stay afloat

There’s been some media speculation that achieving consensus on lower Shuswap River boat restrictions has sunk.

And on the surface, that would appear to be the case as those wanting some motorized boat restrictions and those resistant to rules continue to be miles apart after a five-month mediation process.

Specifically, the motorized user groups want a 50 kilometre an hour speed limit for the lower Shuswap River, but 60 kilometres an hour for water skiing, while those advocating for regulations want speed limits on various sections, including 40 kilometres an hour from Mara to Tuey Park.

The boaters propose a no towing zone from Mara to 10 kilometres up the river from noon to 6 p.m. Friday to Monday, but those pursuing rules want no towing from Mabel to Mara lakes.

Speed and where certain activities can occur remain significant issues, and realistically the entire process initiated by the Regional District of North Okanagan could collapse.

However, there is also hope for optimism.

Consider that while the concept of motorized boat restrictions has divided friends, neighbours and communities for decades, all interested groups selected representatives and then they actually sat at the same table for five months trying to identify common ground.

Of course the big issues still remain unsolved, but there was some success as an agreement was reached on increasing public awareness about regulations, a single contact for complaints and a strategy to accommodate the growing number of tubers. This is huge given the animosity that has previously bubbled to the surface.

Beyond this, the various parties don’t appear ready to walk away just yet.

“We welcome the opportunity to continue the dialogue,” Jay Reid, boater spokesperson, told the RDNO board recently.

Laura Jameson, who wants some form of restrictions, is calling for the mediation process to continue and not be hampered by a firm deadline.

“We strongly believe it needs to be the right regulations,” she said.

What became clear during the recent presentation to RDNO is that the so-called two sides actually have more in common than they do differences.

Those wanting restrictions aren’t anti-boat and simply want to ensure that concerns about the environment and safety are addressed while those with boats have a vested interest in safety as well as protecting the river for the future. It’s simply how they achieve those goals that differs.

The next step is up to the regional district.

“We’ve heard the respective proposals and the board will have a discussion with First Nations and internally on how to proceed,” said David Sewell, chief executive officer.

In the end, it would be easy for RDNO to focus on the lack of an overall agreement between the parties and walk away, but that would resolve nothing. What is needed is for everyone to roll up their sleeves, get back to work and find something that works for the community.

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