Four themes to consider with St. Mary River
Letter to the Editor
Regarding “Perceptions,” by Gerry Warner.
While the description of the vessels “charging upstream,” is a bit dramatic, it is accurate. Jet boats do not operate well until they are “on step” and probably travelling between 30 and 60 km/h. This is quite fast given the number of other users travelling downstream.
However, if a productive discussion is to take place then I think there are four themes to investigate.
Firstly, the right of non-motorized users (the majority), to enjoy quiet, low impact recreation versus the rights of motorized users to access the Kootenay tributaries including the St. Mary River. Secondly, the environmental impacts of motorized vessels in shallow water. It has been suggested that impacts include bank erosion, damage to benthic invertebrate populations, siltation and physical damage to spawning fish, their redds, eggs and juvenile fish. Also, there are concerns about the impact of motorized vessels on noise sensitive receptors such as herons (did you know there is an active rookery on the lower St. Mary?). This is where our provincial biologists should be stepping in and providing some guidance. In this case the precautionary principle should be applied and our resource managers should be certain that the motorization of these rivers does no harm.
Thirdly, there are economic considerations. The ability to recreate on a river in a wild setting is an economically valuable commodity and many established business owners rely on their ability to provide that experience. Campgrounds, golf courses, fishing guides, raft guides and event planners all market the natural beauty and solitude afforded by the river. Motorizing the river does have a negative impact on those operations.
Finally, and most importantly, is the item that you forgot to mention; safety. The St. Mary is a very popular river hence the reason the province saw the necessity of “Classifying” the St. Mary and other Kootenay tributaries.
Simply put, the province had to limit commercial and out-of-province users due to extremely high use. Running up the river with a motorized vessel is akin to driving up a one-way street. I have heard of several accounts of non-motorized users having close calls. The most frightening was an adolescent that was almost struck while snorkelling.
While I agree with your other points I think that our regional district, the Province of B.C. and Transport Canada have a duty to ensure that users can use our local rivers safely. Surely there is some way of finding a reasonable way of equitably and safely allocating our surface waters to provide a variety of experiences while ensuring the sustainability of the resource.