State of the Beach/State Reports/BC

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British Columbia

Yes, we know British Columbia is not a U.S. state. But Surfrider Foundation has three chapters there and volunteers from those chapters, along with 2008 summer intern Haley Haggerstone, helped gather the information to put this report together.


Coastal management in British Columbia is more fragmented than in the United States. This fragmentation is due primarily to the lack of an equivalent to the Coastal Zone Management Act as well as a centralized Coastal Zone Management Agency or governing body in British Columbia. Furthermore, the geographic isolation of many coastal regions of this province creates barriers for coastal managers and agencies alike. The absence of dense development along much of the coast tends to minimize common management concerns involving coastal erosion and subsequent erosion response actions, such as beach fill and shoreline armoring seen in many coastal areas throughout the United States. There are, however, issues pertaining to the overall lack of marine water quality regulations. In marine ecosystems, water quality testing is focused primarily on fisheries as opposed to the potential impact to human health. Recreational water quality is currently only monitored in the greater Vancouver and Victoria regions of the province. Along the west coast of Vancouver Island water quality testing is conducted solely for the purposes of monitoring shellfish stocks. Overall, coastal management policies in British Columbia are convoluted between the various levels of government and restricted by a lack of funding, which has resulted in an overall lack of regulations and protection for coastal communities throughout the province.


(+) Progress in ending Victoria's practice of dumping untreated sewage into the ocean was finally reported in June 2009 when regional politicians approved a $1.2 billion plan to build four treatment plants to handle about 34 million gallons of raw sewage that Victoria and six suburbs pump into the Strait of Juan de Fuca each day. The Capital Regional District, the government for 13 municipalities on the southern end of Vancouver Island, voted to build four plants in Esquimalt, Saanich East, the West Shore and Clover Point, Victoria. The province ordered the plants to be online by 2016.

(+) Since 1972, there has been a moratorium on oil, gas, and mineral exploration and development off the coast of British Columbia.

(+) In 1989 there was a memorandum of cooperation signed by the Governors of Alaska, Washington, Oregon and California, and the Premier of British Columbia. This memorandum was signed following the Nestucca and Exxon Valdez oil spill events which occurred in 1988 and 1989, respectively. The cooperative is aimed at dealing with oil spill events off the west coast of North America. In June 2001, a revised memorandum was adopted to include Hawaii and remains in place today.

(+) A new Pacific Coast Collaborative between British Columbia, Washington, California, Oregon and Alaska has been established to act as a forum for leadership, cooperative action and a common voice on issues affecting the Pacific coast, including Ocean Conservation.

(+) In 1992, the province of British Columbia signed an Environmental Cooperation Agreement with the state of Washington, committing to work together on trans-boundary environmental problems.

(+) The Canadian Government recently committed to a number of valuable initiatives along Canada’s three coasts. These initiatives include increasing the scientific and consultative work being carried out to advance a network of marine protected areas; enhancing pollution prevention and response measures through improved surveillance, enforcement and containment; and providing collaborative opportunities with our partners on ocean and trans-boundary water matters. A federal investment of $42.5 million over three years will help to fund activities aimed at conserving and protecting Canadian oceans. This investment is in addition to the $19 million over the next two years which was announced in the 2007 budget, raising the total commitment to $61.5 million over a five year period.

(+) Court dates have been set, to hear a charge that was laid against the Lions Gate WWTP, which has been accused of polluting coastal waters and violating federal laws aimed at protecting marine habitats. Charges are being laid on both Metro Vancouver and the province for the repeated failure of the plant’s toxicity tests.

(+) Vancouver Coastal Health and the Vancouver Parks Board are in discussions about a no smoking policy on selected public beaches. Any such policies, however, will not be made effective until the summer of 2009.

(+) In May 2007, the Corporation of Delta was required to bury a dead whale in the Boundary Bay area. As a precaution, Environmental Services began a routine water quality sampling program from approximately the 1400 block of Beach Grove Road to just north of 17A Avenue to ensure public safety was maintained. Samples were taken for several months during high tides from a distance of approximately 300 metres offshore. The information attained from this study determined that the water quality in this region was below the provincial recreational water quality limit of 200FC/100 mL.

(0) With the recent construction of the Canada Line in the greater Vancouver region, there have been many questions raised about what is to be done with the estimated 768,000 cubic metres of excavated material. The accumulated volume of fill has been valued at between $20 and $30 million. One suggested use of this fill is for flood proofing lowland areas and developing new public lands in the form of islands and local beach expansion projects.

(-) Every day, 34 million gallons of untreated sewage is discharged from Victoria, B.C. into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

(-) The federal government is considering lifting its offshore oil and gas moratorium along the north coast in the Queen Charlotte Basin and the provincial government is pushing for the entire moratorium to be lifted to allow offshore oil and gas development in the Strait of Georgia and off the west coast of Vancouver Island.

(-) In July 2008, False Creek in heart of downtown Vancouver was closed to all recreational users including swimmers, rowers, kayakers and dragon boaters due to record-breaking fecal coliform levels reaching an average count of 2900 FC/100ml. The cause of the spiked coliform levels was discovered to be sewer malfunctions occurring near several major construction projects in the area, such as the Olympic Village and Canada Line. Vancouver Coastal Health waited several days after the data was attained to advise the public of possible health risks. The affected region was effectively closed from July 4th, 2008 through July 9th, 2008.

(-) Shoreline armoring is becoming a serious problem on Cox Bay in Tofino on Vancouver Island. In April 2010 three resort owners who had constructed seawalls in front of their properties were served with trespass notices from the Integrated Land Management Bureau and told to remove the seawalls by May 10. A letter accompanying the trespass notices states that ILMB and the District of Tofino inspected the walls on April 15 and found they had been constructed on foreshore Crown land. "Constructing a structure or other works on Crown land without authorization is an offense under Section 60 of the Land Act," wrote Compliance and Enforcement Specialist Steven Stussi to the owners of LBL,Pacific Sands and Cox Bay Resort. Despite the letter, the seawalls remain.

(-) Stabilization of the main channel of the Fraser River has altered historical sediment deposition patterns across the Fraser River delta. This has in turn limited the amount of sediment being deposited along the Roberts Bank tidal flats, therefore limiting the supply of sand available to this ecosystem and increasing its susceptibility to erosion.

(-) Each year two million cubic meters of sand and silt is dredged from the lower Fraser River to maintain safe shipping and navigation channels. Nearly three quarters of a million cubic meters of this material is then disposed in an ocean disposal site called Sand Heads.


  • The Point at Jordan River is Now a CRD Park As of late December 2012, thanks to years of work by the Vancouver Island Chapter and other activists, The Point at Jordan River and nearby lands are now officially a CRD park! The CRD will be hosting consultation sessions in early 2013 to hear from surfers, community members and other stakeholders about potential improvements to the lands.
  • Bear Proof Garbage Cans Installed The Pacific Rim Chapter installed two new "bear proof" garbage cans at "431 gardens lot" at Cox Bay and at South Chestermans. The chapter held two separate fundraising events with local restaurants to raise money to provide the garbage cans at the beach trails. Previously there were no cans there, and it was a constant problem with the trash around those areas. The chapter provided the cans and had plaques made for them recognizing Surfrider Foundation for providing them. The District of Tofino empties them on a daily basis as part of their route.

To see all of Surfrider Foundation's coastal victories and campaigns, go here.

State of the Beach Report: British Columbia
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