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Site Considerations

Before developing or altering a waterfront property, what should a landowner consider?


Q: What is the shoreline type?

Shorelines of the major islands in the Trust Area have now been mapped by coastal experts into one of six shoreline types. Although the shoreline will be identified as one type in the mapping it is important to note that there may be more than one type in the area, such as a bluff in the backshore of a sand/pebble beach.  Furthermore, there may be special shoreline features identified in addition to the shore type, such as a salt marsh.   Use the Map-IT Shoreline application to see this information.

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Q: Are there any special shoreline features identified nearby?

The shoreline mapping project included identifying salt marshes, low lying areas, soft shorelines, very protected waters, and islets.   These features were identified because they are particularly vulnerable to disturbance or human activity.  Low lying areas may also be particularly vulnerable to sea level rise due to climate change, including increased vulnerability of ground water wells to salt water intrusion.

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Q: What is the exposure?

The exposure of a site is determined by the dominant wave and wind direction and how exposed the site is.  Waves are generated by wind and how much energy they contain will be determined by the distance that winds can travel over water (the fetch), the wind velocity and how long the wind blows.  Generally the longer the fetch is, the larger the waves will be. 

The Gulf Islands are generally considered to be sheltered shorelines because they are not exposed to the open ocean, but there is considerable variation depending upon factors such as the location, orientation, and near shore water depth.

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Wave Fetch for South Pender Island 

Wave Fetch for South Pender Island

Q: What is the energy system?

The energy system of a site is a factor of the wave exposure (see above) in combination with the predominant direction of storms.  How the shoreline is affected by the energy system will also vary by the type of shoreline and its position in the longshore drift cell, ie: is it an eroding or depositional shore. Additional factors such as exposure to ferry and boat wakes may also influence the energy system at a site.

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Q: Can you identify the longshore drift cell(s) in your area?

For signs of an eroding shore look for areas of steep banks or bluffs with alack of significant trees or shrubs,  tipped trees with exposed roots or with a 'pistol butt' appearance,  land slumping, bare soils, wet soils that may have seepage or seasonal water drainage, or undercutting at the base of slopes particularly after storm events.  Nearby streams or drainage outlets can also be a sediment source.

For signs of depositional shores where sediments are accreting looks for nearby pocket beaches or sand berms, signs of sand bars or spit formation, or the formation estuaries near the mouths of streams.

Transport shores occur between the source of sediment and where it ends up being deposited. Although they may be relatively stable with no net loss or gain of sediments, the amount of sediments moving along the shore can be significant. 

Historic air photos may help to indicate the gradual shoreline changes occurring over time and some historic photos are available in the online Map-IT mapping program. 

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Q: Are there any freshwater inputs nearby?

Look for nearby streams, drainage courses or wet soils with active seepage or seasonal water drainage in the area; you may also notice that they may affect the shoreline environment differently based on seasonal changes.  While freshwater inputs can be a source of sediments, they can also provide specialized habitats due to the local changes to water salinity or temperature.   Streams used as habitat by salmon, game fish or regional important fish species may be protected under the BC Fish Protection Act - Riparian Areas Regulation.

Freshwater Input 

Fresh Water Input SC

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Q: Are there other sources of drainage into the shoreline environment?

Discharge from septic fields, perimeter drains or from land that has been treated with pesticides or fertilizers can also carry contaminants into the marine environment.   Regular inspection and maintenance of septic systems and avoiding the use of synthetic or inorganic landscaping treatments are good for the environment and protecting human health.  Avoiding the direct discharge of stormwater toward the shoreline and improving drainage conditions so there is improved infiltration of rainwater through the soils can also reduce erosion and the risk of contamination.

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Q: What is the upland terrain like?

What is the nature of the upland soils and natural drainage patterns?  Are there steep slopes in the area?  Generally the risks associated with steep slopes on South Pender Island are related to rock fall, signs of which may be evident on the site.  Are there areas of ongoing erosion, bare soils, or fallen or tipping trees? Contour data is available in the online Map-IT program and steep slope hazard mapping for South Pender Island is also attached as Schedule F to the Official Community Plan. 

Low lying areas may be more vulnerable to sea level rise and storm events; land owners in these areas should ensure projected sea level rise is taken into consideration during the design stage.

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Q: What is the upland vegetation like?

Does the upland have established vegetation and does it include mature trees and shrubs or more low lying herbaceous and grass vegetation?  Does the vegetation consist of native species or are there areas of invasive species?  Limiting disturbance to existing vegetation and compacting of soils is cost effective form of storm water management and can save money by not having to restore or landscape disturbed areas later.  During the construction stage the movement of equipment and storage of materials should not encroach into the shorezone to avoid damaging these sensitive areas.  As a land owner you may need to clarify with any contractors the working areas to be used for their purpose and the sensitive areas they need to avoid, temporary fencing or ropes can be used as helpful reminders.

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Q: What are the nearby habitats and ecosystems?

The major islands in the Trust Area have been mapped for sensitive ecosystems and can help identify any sensitive areas or species on your property; you can find this information on the Map-IT ecosystems application and it is also attached as Schedule E to the South Pender Island Official Community Plan.   Some islands have adopted development permit areas based on ecosystems, sensitive intertidal waters, or the shoreline generally and additional approvals may be required; contact Islands Trust staff for more information.

Some islands have completed mapping of eelgrass beds or beaches suitable for forage fish habitat which is shown on the Map-IT shoreline application.  As more islands are mapping the data will be added to the Map-IT program.  

Raptor species including eagles, ospreys and heron often build nests close to the shoreline and use large trees near the shoreline to perch for hunting.  Many islands have identified the known nest sites and for South Pender Island it is attached as Schedule G to the Official Community Plan.  Although most raptors are quite tolerant of living near humans they can be particularly sensitive to noise and activities during the nesting season.

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Q: Where is the closest public access point to the shoreline?

All land below the high water mark is considered Crown land and is therefore publicly accessible.  You may want to consider how nearby public access points from the land by way of park trails or boat ramps, and direct access to the foreshore by boaters may impact your privacy.  Maintaining or establishing vegetative buffers can be effective for both privacy and discouraging trespass.  Existing ocean access trails and viewpoints for South Pender Island are indicated on the online Map-IT shoreline application.

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Q: How much activity tends to occur in the nearby marine waters?

The marine waters are used by various users from private boaters, recreational or commercial fishers, and commercial shipping lanes.  You should also consider any nearby marinas and the amount of boat traffic in your area, as well as nearby moorage points and public or private docks.   Heavy boat traffic may impact the shoreline by their wakes, by inadvertent damage to marine vegetation, and disturbance to fish movements or habitat.

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Q: Are there known archaeological sites in the area?

Many of the archaeological sites on the island are on or adjacent to the shoreline.  Any archaeological site is protected under the BC Heritage Conservation Act whether is a known, registered site or not.

Archaeological sites are a finite resource and if they are disturbed can be permanently lost.  To find out if there is a known site on or near your property you can contact the provincial Archaeological Branch or Islands Trust staff.

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Q: How many and what type of structures are nearby?

Are there existing stairs to the beach, rip rap, retaining walls or other structures in the area?  What is the state of their condition?  Structures near the shoreline are more vulnerable to impacts from storm or wind events, exposure to sea spray, and therefore may be damaged or deteriorate more rapidly.  Sometimes a 'managed retreat' or moving an existing structure inland to avoid shoreline erosion and adapt to ongoing or predicted shoreline recession or sea level rise is the most practical solution.

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Q: What can be constructed along the shoreline?

Before constructing anything or undertaking any land alterations, land owners should confirm what is permitted in their local bylaws.  Each Local Trust Committee adopts their own Land Use Bylaw, which regulates what is permitted, and they may also have adopted development permit areas that affect any development on the land or water.   Private docks are not permitted in all areas, nor are stairs or walkways to access the foreshore.  Where they are permitted there may be size and siting requirements to be aware of.  As well, the setback to the natural boundary of the sea is often larger than the setback to other lot lines.   Bylaws for each Local Trust Area are found under their respective webpages or you can contact Islands Trust staff.

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Page last updated: 10/09/18
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