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ACT NOW AGAIN & NEW INFO – Squamish Floatplanes round 2

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by raquo » Thu Aug 27, 2020 5:00 am

If you've read the previous thread, the new important info that I received from Transport Canada in response to my random but very lucky question is that "in the next year or so" (TC words) all water aerodromes in built-up areas (yes, Squamish) will need to be certified (see pdf here) (yes, existing water aerodromes will need to be certified just as well).

That means a few things but importantly to us:
  • Runways will need to be designated, minimum dimensions 800m x 120m, with even more space extending from both directions designated as clearways. This means blind channel does not qualify as it's not wide enough, so they will take off right from our Nexen sailing area.
  • Other marine traffic needs to be excluded from those runways and clearways. I could not find any evidence that such exclusion could be temporary (e.g. only during takeoff), it appears that these will be treated as real airport runways where third party incursion is not allowed 24/7.

This is what I was most afraid of, that they will set up a "real aerodrome" and prevent us from sailing there wholesale, backed by regulations. They didn't even mention this in the application but of they know about this because TC consulted them on this! Transport Canada told me that "the aforementioned proposal [permit for the dock] would have to be approved as a prerequisite to a water aerodrome/airport being established" so if you don't want half of Nexen sailing area to be written off for floatplanes in a couple years while we have no idea what will happen with the spit, let's do something about it before it's too late.

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The district opened the second round of consultations, which I only happened to learn about randomly from my hang gliding club. When you submitted your feedback in the first round they responded to you (and me) telling us that they will email us when the second round starts. But they didn't do that. You have only received the notification email from them after I complained about this to the district and alerted SWS about this. Not trying to take all the credit for everything – It was literally just dumb luck, twice, that I happened to learn all this – but I want to show you how the district is treating this consultation so far, so that you understand how important it is for our windsports community to deliver a really loud collective response.

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Main concerns with floatplanes are:
  • They will likely exclude or heavily restrict windsports traffic from essentially half of Nexen sailing area, and this is really unacceptable to us. This might be our only chance to prevent this. There are hundreds of people in Squamish and even more visitors for whom windsurfing / kiteboarding is the center of their lives in Squamish. I know many people who moved to Squamish just for windsurfing.
  • They have not shown how they will safely coexist with windsurfers and kiteboarders if we will somehow be allowed to use the runway area. Not a single word. They even imply that they have experience with this, but they actually don't have high speed windsurfers or kiteboarders on any runways anywhere they operate. In fact they completely exclude small (<65') vessels from their runway in Victoria for example. That's how they deal with marine conflicts. And it looks like new TC requirements will actually mandate this or something like this for Squamish too.

Lesser concerns:
  • Floatplanes will eat into parking at Nexen once it's built up. People will park-and-fly to Vancouver, taking up valuable parking spots for the whole day. There was only 120 street parking spots announced in the whole area, for all the shops and commerce and stuff, with zero dedicated to windsports, and no available overflow parking anywhere. It will already be a shitshow every summer weekend. How will windsurfers come here with 20+kg of gear? Before you say bike & trailer, I'm not sure there will be enough space to park more than a handful of such contraptions either!
  • Noise – not literally my personal problem, but it will be someone else's who will live in all those new buildings at Nexen. Especially with Malamut rock & Chief reflecting all of that (just like gun club & the highlands). How convenient that these future residents can't be here today to protest, since the area will only be built in a couple years. It's a very shortsighted application, that does not account for a lot of changes to the area in the next two years. They're doing it now, during a pandemic, when air traffic is super low and Nexen isn't built up yet, but they will actually be operating this in a completely different environment in a year or two.

I think following what Dmitry suggested, there is an easy solution to this:

Floatplanes should launch from Darrel Bay instead.

The government seems unwilling to use that dock for anything (well maybe for Woodfiber LNG) but even if they didn't want to use that dock (it's not in downtown after all), they could use the adjacent water area – that is by design sheltered from waves and wind – for takeoffs and landings. Few people there to complain, and they can have their kilometer of runway & clearway to themselves. Then they can just taxi the plane at a reasonable, non-threatening speed to the dock at Nexen. Yes that'll add a few minutes to travel time, and we'll have to contend with parking still. Better for everyone than the alternatives though.

To me, this looks really serious.

None of us, not even SWS, were aware of the impending certification requirement for aerodromes. This changes the equation considerably.

ACT NOW – send your comments

Even without that, you still need to at the very least re-state your concerns from round one of consultation. Since they didn't do anything that I can see to respond to any of those.

Link to consultation

Comments link (max 1000 characters, not much, but I personally submitted two)

Please tell them that windsports are very important to you and to Squamish, raise the marine traffic conflict and aerodrome certification concerns, ask them to explain specific procedures for safe traffic separation, suggest that they take off and land from Darrel bay area. Assuming you agree with that of course. Your comment.

Keep in mind that the district can't regulate airspace and such – that's the domain of Transport Canaad – but public safety, development, the local economy, happiness of residents, and user group conflicts are their concerns. So choose your arguments accordingly. Also I'm not an expert in any of this, I just did some research and typed a lot of words.

Personally I submitted these two comments:

I’m a Squamish resident & windsurfer as are many of my friends. Floatplanes will conflict with windsurfers & kiteboarders as the proposed takeoff / landing area is in the middle of very busy Nexen sailing area. How will Harbour Air avoid collision on takeoff & landing without restricting windsports traffic from takeoff / landing areas outside of the exact takeoff / landing times? Initial low frequency of flights does not solve anything.

Floatplanes should land and take off from Darrel Bay instead. They can even taxi to dock at Nexen at low speed. Harbour Air has no experience with high speed windsurfers & kiteboarders sailing through their takeoff area, but they do have experience completely excluding small vessels including windsurfers & kiteboarders from takeoff areas (e.g. Victoria). This is unacceptable in Squamish. Windsports are the center of Squamish life for hundreds of locals. People move here for this, and windsurf visitors bring in economy. Without the floatplanes already.


and

Applicant is seeking a permanent approval based on a very temporary situation, in many aspects.

The pandemic and construction at Nexen means few flights for now - and that's used as an excuse for not addressing any concerns now - but that will inevitably skyrocket in a year or two. A low traffic charter-only dock makes no financial sense.

a) New Transport Canada regulations wrt certification of water aerodromes will soon (1-2 years) come into effect, making both of the proposed takeoff areas illegal unless all windusrfers & kiteboarders are excluded. Unacceptable.

b) Once Nexen is built up there will be severe shortage of parking. They already want 4 spaces just for low traffic. Windsports need this more.

c) Noise will be a real concern to Nexen residents esp. with reflection from Malamute & Chief. Squamish should know better, but this is ignored because the buildings aren't built yet. But they will be very soon.

Approval should not be granted w/o addressing such near-term issues.


I don't know how they handle multiple submissions from the same person, if they will choose just one or consider both or what. The 1000 character limit was frustrating, I wish I could say more.

Please make one comment but make it count. Give your thoughts too, don't just copy me. Here is a google doc with more words for info & inspiration, but really this is all pretty clear, use your own words please. You're all real people.

SEND YOUR COMMENT & GET YOUR FRIENDS TO SEND COMMENTS TOO.

Like, for real. Let's ramp this up.

Please repost to whatsapp and other groups, I'm spent for tonight. Need you guys to pick up the torch.
Last edited by raquo on Fri Aug 28, 2020 11:27 am, edited 1 time in total.
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by JonathanP » Thu Aug 27, 2020 8:12 am

Commented, thanks for the heads up!
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by Ryan » Thu Aug 27, 2020 9:46 am

Done, thanks for the reminder.
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by raquo » Tue Sep 08, 2020 1:10 am

Bump! In case you forgot or didn't get to it yet, please send comments today, the deadline is tomorrow.
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by Domd » Tue Sep 08, 2020 12:22 pm

Comment sent. How about sailing? There is a marina there also. Wouldn't they also be impacted by that aerodrome? Are the marina and boat owners aware of that development and have they voiced their opinion also?
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by Luis » Tue Sep 08, 2020 10:10 pm

Message sent.
User avatar
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by Shan » Wed Sep 09, 2020 12:42 am

I submitted my response.
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by raquo » Sat Sep 12, 2020 2:24 am

Thank you for submitting your comments!

You can see everyone's comments and the answers from Harbour Air and the district here.

A few takeaways:

* There are a lot of comments, and the overwhelming majority of them are from us, kiteboarders and windsurfers. This is how it should be for things that concern our access!
* In their responses, the council & HA are essentially saying that for now while HA can operate as a charter without aerodrome certification, they will be doing that without excluding us, and they are saying that there will be a separate consultation when the aerodrome will eventually need to be certified.
* They plan to take off from inside the blind channel on windy / swelly days. Consistent 2ft swell was mentioned as a common no-go threshold for floatplanes. Not sure about the wind speed part of it. This seems to be the only traffic separation measure they're contemplating for now. No idea how that will work out, I guess we'll have to see.

Judging by their responses so far I think they will probably approve this application, but I'm not sure what else we can do at this stage. We did our part and showed our concerns and our numbers. If they do approve it, we will need to wait and see how it works out, and it if doesn't, raise the issue again with HA, council, or TC, now backed by factual evidence.

Once again, thank you for taking the time to contribute your comments. The process is frustrating, but at the end of the day your engagement matters a lot.
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by tbeld » Tue Sep 15, 2020 7:15 pm

Message sent
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