MP Joe Peschisolido was in Steveston Wednesday morning to announce $9.6 million for various projects around the village’s inner harbour, including channel dredging.
“We promised Canadians that we would invest in infrastructure and that includes small harbours,” such as Steveston, said the Liberal MP for Steveston-East Richmond, explaining that the funding is for projects this year.
The announcement mirrored another one made in May 2015 by Peschisolido’s predecessor, Conservative MP Kerry-Lynne Findlay, who, leading up to the federal election, promised $14 million over two years for the exact same projects, such as reconstruction of the government pier at Third Avenue, replacing the village’s public fish sales floats and making improvements to the Paramount site on Trites Road.
Peschisolido’s commitment is only for 2016 and doesn’t include Findlay’s commitments to rebuild wharves on Sixth Avenue and floating docks at the Nelson Pond, which have yet to be attended to.
Peschisolido said the government will revisit what else is needed come 2017.
Standing beside Peschisolido was Coun. Harold Steves, who said “hopefully” this federal money will finally be spent to improve the harbour.
“We had been after (the federal government) for the last two years but they didn’t come through. We were going nowhere,” said Steves.
To date, stalled federal funding has hampered the Steveston Harbour Authority (SHA) over recent years, according to its members.
“We’ve been standing still for a number of years in this industry, but we do have plans to expand this place for the benefit of the whole coast and the commercial fishing industry,” said Robert Kiesman, chair of the authority’s board of directors.
Peschisolido said SHA would have a “big say” in how the money — distributed by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans — will be spent. He said the investment will spur local jobs in the fishing industry.
The money is expected to help close a gap in funding for dredging of the easterly portion of Steveston Channel.
According to the City of Richmond, Port of Vancouver has “exhausted” its dredging budget for the channel.
In 2014, the city, port and provincial government effectively split the $1.1 million tab to dredge the westerly side of the channel.
It will cost $1.35 million to dredge the eastern side. Richmond has already committed $450,000, the province has agreed to pay $319,000 and the SHA board had, to date, authorized up to $550,000.
Peschisolido said the SHA will determine how much of the federal money will be used for dredging. Initially, SHA only budgeted $100,000.
The City of Richmond presently has $1.5 million set aside for future channel dredging but city council has, in general, agreed to not spend more than 33 per cent of any costs associated with any given project.
While dredging of the main Fraser River arms is left to Port of Vancouver, local channels, such as Steveston’s, have seen limited contributions, leading to municipalities to pick up costs, said Steves.
“We’ve been after the feds to match” contributions, he said.
Since 1998, following changes to the Canada Marine Act, there has been no federal funding for such secondary channels.
“There is the issue of the responsibility of dredging,” noted Peschisolido, who stated “conversations” will be had with Port of Vancouver and other stakeholder groups.