Olympics to close three waterways to boat traffic

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

False Creek, Burrard Inlet and Fraser River’s north arm will all face restricted access due to security concerns

Bruce Constantineau

A police boat speeds past a False Creek Ferries boat in False Creek. Because of travel restrictions around the Olympics, some routes through the waterway will be restricted. Photograph by: Ian Smith, Vancouver Sun

Boaters plying the waters of False Creek, Burrard Inlet and the north arm of the Fraser River will face no-entry “exclusion zones” and restricted access during the Olympic Games next year.

The restrictions were outlined by the Vancouver 2010 Integrated Security Unit at a public meeting in Vancouver late Tuesday.

A “floating marine barrier” under the Cambie Bridge from Jan. 25 to March 24 will restrict access to vessels wanting to head east of the bridge. Vessels moored in the area will be allowed to enter and leave False Creek if they’re accompanied by a security escort.

Three exclusion zones will exist in the waters immediately around the athletes’ village on the south shore of False Creek, the international broadcast centre at Canada Place and the Richmond Oval near the Fraser River. Controlled access zones will stretch further out from the exclusion zones, allowing travel with permission from security vessels.

Granville Island Ferries operations manager Jeremy Patterson said the measures will force his company to abandon two of its regular routes during the Games because the docks are located east of Cambie Bridge — near Science World and the Plaza of Nations.

“We were kind of expecting it but now we know for sure,” he said. “No passengers can travel [east of the bridge] but there may be enough business for us in the west end of False Creek anyway.”

ISU spokesman Const. Bert Paquet said private vessels returning to their False Creek berths east of the bridge will have to wait for a security escort vessel to accompany them. The same procedure will apply when the vessels leave False Creek.

“Because of the close proximity to the exclusion zone and some of our important venues, there will be an escort in and out,” Paquet said.

He said controlled access zones will allow access for vessels with a reason to be there but prevent tourists and spectators from getting too close to venues and causing “water traffic nightmares.”

Paquet said security vessels will patrol Howe Sound on a regular basis because of the importance of the Sea to Sky Highway as a transportation link.

“We have a job to do but we’re trying to minimize the impact on local boaters and businesses alike,” he said.

Port Metro Vancouver Harbour Master Capt. Yoss Leclerc said he’s pleased the security measures won’t affect commercial traffic. He said the exclusion zones will not affect commercial traffic channels.

“The port is an important part of the supply chain for the Canadian economy and we wanted to protect that as much as possible,” Leclerc said in an interview.

Commercial marine traffic in Vancouver is generally steady throughout the year but has slowed due to the global recession.

LeClerc said SeaBus operations will not be affected by security measures as it’s considered an important public transit operation.

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