New regulations that were passed last fall are now in effect for the Upper Columbia River, restricting motorized boats to 20 horsepower (15kw) or less. All side channels and sloughs are off limits to motorised water craft, which was alway the case.
The main reason for the restriction is to protect wildlife habitat in the area.
“This stretch from Donald all the way down to Columbia Lake…it’s incredibly intricate wetland that is extremely unique not just in North America but in the world,” said Annette Luttermann, who holds a PhD in ecology. She also serves as a board member for Wildsight.
“It’s an absolutely spectacular region. Not only is it beautiful, but from an ecological perspective it’s extremely biodiverse. That’s why people want to make sure it’s protected.”
In 1996 there was an international conference in Egypt where experts designated wetlands of international importance. The Columbia Wetlands were recognized at the convention, and two years later the provincial government designated it the Columbia Wetlands Wildlife Management Area.
That same year the Province imposed a 10hp limit, which was challenged and defeated in court as it is a federal jurisdiction and BC did not have the authority to place any limits on it. Since then there has been lobbying on the federal government to place regulations on motorboats in the river, however still with some opposition.
Through the help of the Columbia Wetlands Stewardship Partners, a compromise was reached to place the limit at 20hp, although that did not please everybody.
“Last spring when they did the public consultation through the Ministry of Transport, they had over 85 per cent of people who were very supportive of this particular regulation, and even additional regulation,” said Lutterman. “There was some political opposition to it, by a small handful of people essentially.”
Lutterman has now been asked by Wildsight to engage in communication with people and groups in the region to educate them on the regulation and its purpose.
During the consultation process, and when the regulation was approved, there was fear among the regulation’s opposition that it would affect activity in Columbia and Windermere Lakes. Lutterman says that is not the case.
“These restrictions do not apply to those lakes,” she said. “And at the time there is not intention to move forward with further regulation.”
Even though there are no regulations placed on non-motorized boats, Lutterman hopes that people will be respectful of the habitats in the wetlands.
“A rich assemblage of resident wildlife depends on these areas as well. Nesting season is from April through to July, during which time avian parents need all the help they can get to successfully raise their young. Boaters in canoes and kayaks can also startle nesting birds and young broods, causing them to be separated from adults and more vulnerable to predators,” she said.
There will be signage on all of the river’s boat launches to inform users of the change in regulation. And anyone who sees violators is asked to contact the local Conservation Office at 1-877-952-7277.