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Fraser River marina plan afloat following regulatory revisions

A $13-million marina project in the North Arm of the Fraser River is edging nearer to construction, after revisions to the original plan and negotiations with the City of Richmond over flooding concerns.

The project is in the final stages of regulatory approval and "it's our hope to start construction very soon," project manager Matthew Cote said Tuesday.

Dubbed the Milltown Marina, the project is a joint venture between Bastion Development and the Musqueam First Nation, with Mr. Cote also participating. He would not discuss the partnership structure, saying it is a private venture, but said the cost of the project is expected to be around $13-million.

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The marina proposal was first floated in 2009, when area residents raised several concerns, including public access to the facility and how dredging would affect the river and marine life.

Since then, the project's backers have commissioned studies and worked with numerous regulatory authorities and agencies – Mr. Cote puts the number at 17 – to fine tune the enterprise.

The proposed development site is on the North Arm of the Fraser River at the foot of Bentley Street in Vancouver's Marpole neighbourhood. Part of the site is within Richmond and part within Vancouver.

Current plans call for water slips for 174 boats and dry-stack storage – undercover stacking for smaller craft – for 242 vessels.

Plans also call for dredging about 70,000 cubic metres of soil from the slough.

"We're very concerned about contaminants in the bottom of the slough," said Terry Slack, a Marpole resident and fisherman who took part in community meetings with the developer. A sawmill once operated near the site and there are concerns that large-scale dredging would dislodge toxic chemicals now buried in the silt.

In response to such concerns, proponents commissioned studies that found sediment samples were within acceptable guidelines.

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Last month, the province issued an order exempting the project from the requirement to obtain a provincial environmental assessment certificate.

The project, which also involves Port Metro Vancouver jurisdiction, has been subject to review under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. The federal review, completed in February, said the project could go ahead.

The City of Richmond, which last year raised concerns about flooding risks to an area unprotected by a dike, fire and water services, and as well as $50,000 worth of unpaid taxes on the site, has also given its okay to the project.

A Richmond city report said proponents addressed its concerns and that a legal agreement has been struck that "provides indemnification to Richmond for any damage caused by flooding and/or erosion."

Vancouver-based Bastion's real-estate projects include the Opsal, a residential project in Vancouver's South East False Creek neighbourhood. The Musqueam are involved in several projects, including the Milltown Marina.

Mr. Cote said the dry-stack model – which is widely seen in marinas in Florida and elsewhere but relatively uncommon in B.C. – is likely to appeal to boat owners who don't want the inconvenience of hauling a boat on a trailer to get it in the water.

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The dry-stack model, he said, makes it more feasible for people who live in apartments or condominiums to become boat owners.

Vancouver recently launched a comprehensive community planning process for Marpole, which contains chunks of the city's remaining industrial land and is also drawing investor and developer interest because of the Canada Line running through the neighbourhood.

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About the Author
National correspondent

Based in Vancouver, Wendy Stueck has covered technology and business and now reports on British Columbia issues including natural resources, aboriginal issues and urban affairs. More

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