China Creek Marina Improvements Necessary

In February 2007 the Port Alberni Port Authority received a Review of Sediment Management Alternatives at China Creek Marina report from expert hydraulic consultants in order to gain a better understanding of sedimentation flows from the creek and how to reduce the impact on the marina. The report revealed that sedimentation flows and amounts have dramatically been increasing since 2004. Given a myriad of conditions upstream created by natural causes and human activities the Review also advised that sedimentation transport rates and volumes are expected to increase and accumulate near the marina over the years to follow. Continued dredging of the basin had become no longer economically viable or sustainable. In addition, the Port Authority must follow regulations and approvals for such activities as dictated by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO). Ongoing annual approvals for dredging could not be expected and certainly isn’t economic.
Without significant activities designed to cope with the already occurring and expected sedimentation the very existence of the marina basin is threatened. A variety of alternatives in the 2007 report were considered including the dredging program that was in place through 2006; construction of a dyke; building a sheet pile wall; and installing a sediment trap. None of these options would provide the type of cost and marina basin security that would be in the overall best interests of all stakeholders including DFO, marina users or the Port.
Through a creative problem solving approach that involved a holistic, recreational marina strategy that includes improvements to Harbour Quay and Clutesi Haven marinas and a focus on the long term preservation of as much of the China Creek Marina basin as possible a 2-pronged approach was determined. This approach was created by the Port Authority, in consultation with hydraulic experts, DFO and marine floats experts to provide the best, most environmentally and economically responsible solution for all marina operations. For China Creek Marina the solution involved the installation of a deflector wall, the removal of more than 10,000 m3 of sediment and the removal of aging, decaying and damaged floats. These three activities together along with less useable marina basin area, due to the dredging permissions that were initially received at the project start-up, resulted in the final configuration.
The Port Authority is mindful that change at any of its facilities can cause various levels of confusion, frustration and disruption. Certainly, there have been some growing pains with the new configuration this season. However, the change from slips to side-tie now enables the marina to accommodate larger vessels than before when many of the useable slips previously were only 18 - 20 feet long. In response to concerns related to this issue and others the Port provides this FAQ:
Why are there so many fewer slips?
The original infrastructure needed to be replaced and modernized. Sediment and silt continue to encroach into and threaten the longevity of the basin as a useable marina. Also, the average size of vessel is growing. The Port Authority contracted Surefloat – a widely recognized and respected marine float company - to engineer, design and build the new layout. The new system was engineered to consider the winds, currents, modern vessel and marina safety design standards. The new system also enabled the Port to link the inner marina floats to the new ones, which helped it capture formerly unused but very valuable area. While the end result is a new side-tie float system that was designed and installed to all current standard industry specifications the new system has resulted in fewer overall moorage spaces than previously. However, the new realignment, combined with the new silt and sedimentation deflector wall is designed to give the marina the best possible prospectus for a viable, economically sustainable facility into the future.
Will moorage rates increase to pay for the new system and loss of revenue from fewer available slips?
The Port must operate all its facilities as economically sustainable businesses. The Port does not receive any tax dollars or public subsidies to support its operations. In fact, various portions of the Port’s gross revenues must be sent to the Federal government and in the case of China Creek Marina and Campground revenues are also disbursed to the Provincial and Alberni Clayoquot Regional District governments because of respective lease agreements. Whether or not moorage rates are increased is a decision for the board of directors of the Port Authority to make based on the economics of the facility. The Port Authority understands there are a variety of issues that must be considered whenever calculating rates such as operating costs, product supply and customer demand, competition and other basic market conditions.
Why wasn’t the marina basin dredged?
Permission was granted by DFO to dredge only a certain amount of materials during a certain window of time. This permission did not allow for dredging of the marina basin. Another hydraulic engineering issue concerned the high likelihood that dredging the marina basin itself would ultimately result in a net increase of sedimentation finding its way back into the dredged area. And, lastly, eel grass was found to be prevalent throughout the basin. Under environmental laws of Canada eel grass cannot be disturbed in any way.
Why are the docks so close together?
The docks and alignments are engineered to meet current industry standards, which also provide flexibility to change in the future.
Why did it take so long to get the water lines to the dock?
Permission was required from DFO to widen the channel between the float and the headland where the waterline had to be installed leading out to all the floats. Unfortunately, this approval took longer than expected. In the interim, the Port provided temporary water by hose to a limited area of the floats. As of July 19th the permanent water system project was completed. This system provides double headed standpipes approximately every 50 feet on each float. This system provides water to all of the floats unlike the previous system which serviced only approximately one-third.
Despite the challenges and in response to opportunities as this community evolves, as the unpredictable future of fisheries evolves and as the needs of the facility evolves, the Port is doing its best to make wise investments that meet those challenges today and to capitalize on the opportunities into the future. The Port Alberni Port Authority thanks all users for their patience and understanding as everyone adjusts to the new China Creek Marina layout. Of course, the Port reminds everyone that the campground, which the Port leases from the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District as a regional, public, general-use park and not as a designated “fish camp” is available for all families and guests. All are welcome whether they are fishers, hikers, wildlife viewers, active outdoor enthusiasts or those simply looking for a beautiful location with waterfront access to relax and enjoy their Alberni Valley experience.