Save the Buoys Campaign – PAST CAMPAIGN
Letter to Editor re: Canada Coast Guard Nav Aid removals
September 14th, 1998
I have just read the letters to the editor in your September issue of Lakeland Boating Magazine, and feel some clarification of my July 1998 letter, and history of this issue, is needed.
First of all, and for the record, the North Channel Preservation Society has never stated that the Canadian Coast Guard intends to discontinue ALL of the navigational aids in the Great Lakes. The quotation in your July ‘98 letter from me should have been that they intend to discontinue MANY of the aids. There was no intention to mislead. I would refer you and your readers to my March 1998 letter to your magazine, and to our www site, in which I state specifically which marker buoys that they intend to remove that are of concern to us, and urge readers to view the list directly at the Canadian Coast Guard www site. The text of that letter appears below. I apologize for the confusion.
The Society first became aware of the issue of the buoy removals last fall, when the Canadian Coast Guard originally announced planned discontinuances of many navigational aids through out the Georgian Bay area. These included 43 in the North Channel from Killarney to Blind River, 38 from Midland to Parry Sound, and 18 from the North Channel to the Sault. The list has subsequently been expanded to include some of the aids in rivers in Ontario as well, including the St. Lawrence, Ottawa, and St. Clair.
Among the North Channel removals were 26 navigational aids that marked the entrances to Little Current., at the East end of Manitoulin Island. As was reported in the Manitoulin Expositor newspaper on November 12th, 1997: “November 7th marked the date of closure for the objection to the removal of several aids from the waters.” Furthermore: “The final decision to remove the buoys should be heard by December 1st, 1997.” This prescipitated a strong local public action campaign, since the removals of the buoys in this area would have had a detrimental impact on local tourism, and the North Channel Marine Tourism Council had only been made aware of the discontinuances two weeks before the November 7th cutoff date.
Finally on December 3rd, 1997 under the title: “North Channel Marker Buoys Rescued”, the Expositor Newspaper reported that : “Following a vociferous letter writing campaign, the Canadian Coast Guard has relented in its plans to remove 26 navigational aids in the North Channel around Little Current.” The campaign had been led by the Mayor, as well as the Great Lakes Cruising Club, and other interested marine groups, including the North Channel Preservation Society. Furthermore, the Expositor reported that “Originally, comments from the recreational boating community were to have concluded on November 7th, 1997. However, because of the outcry, and subsequent re-vamping of the list, public input will now be received until February 1998.”
The North Channel Preservation Society endeavoured to contact recreational boating organizations all over the Great Lakes, including the Muskoka Lakes region, were 125 buoys were proposed for discontinuance, and made them aware of the Coast Guard initiatives, and urged them to make their opinions known as well. It appears to this observer that as a result of the efforts of various organizations and groups in raising their concerns to the Coast Guard, the consultations were expanded to include many more regional marine interests and local organizations.
Furthermore, as was seen in Little Current last year, the early cut off dates for consultation and decision have been subsequently extended, and now include a whole set of further consultations to take place this fall.
I believe that the Coast Guard has faithfully responded to an unexpectedly “vociferous outcry” regarding its proposed buoy discontinuances, and has amended its consultation policies and timetables accordingly. As is indicated in the current lists of proposals, the Coast Guard has welcomed and seriously considered, the information received from various interests through out the on-going consultations, and incorporated it into their amended proposals.
I would urge any of your readers who boat in the Great Lakes and Ontario, to view the proposals on the Coast Guard www site, get their charts out, and see if they will be affected.
As a further clarification, David Cork is the President of the NCPS, Stuart Cork is my son, and is the webmaster of the www site.
. . .
Lakeland Boating Magazine
January 6th, 1998
As a life time lake land boater, and a reader of your magazine, I
thought it would be appropriate to inform you of a little known
initiative by the Canadian Coast Guard that will affect all of your
readers that venture into Canadian waters in the Great Lakes Region. Our
personal experience is with the North-Channel region of Georgian Bay, an
area that has figured prominently in your publication in past issues.
Last fall the Canadian Coast Guard announced its recommendations that 26
navigational aids, including lighted and unlighted buoys, spars and
range markers, would be removed in the Little Current area of Georgian
Bay. A further 30 navigational aids are to be discontinued from the
North Channel to Parry Sound.
These removals of navigational aids were the result of apparent monetary
considerations, and of consultations with commercial and fishing
operation. The Coast Guard announced that boaters must rely on radar
and, the GPS system run by the United States Military, and will also be
funding sites in Canada for ground based Selective Availability
correction Differential GPS transmitters. They maintain these 59 water
borne aids are essentially redundant.
However, the list of discontinued markers contains many buoys that mark
small craft routes, such as the seven channel buoys that mark the
passage into Baie Fine, en-route to The Pool, a very popular destination
for North Channel cruisers from Canada and the United States. All of
these Baie Fine markers are, for example, positioned along a very tight
and often congested channel that is at some points no more that 30 feet
wide, and hugs the rocky shoreline in an area that obscures GPS
satellite signals. The channel markers that are currently in place have
safely guided yachts up to 120 feet long through this treacherous area
Also included in this list of discontinued Georgian Bay navigational
aids, are many markers that show the location of hidden or submerged
hazards such as shoals and rocks, often in areas along or near popular
Furthermore, the only direct goverment services that boaters in these
areas use on a regular basis, are these navigational and safety aids. As
with automobiles, boaters must pay taxes on their fuel purchases, and
presumably should expect some return for their services from these
contributions. Due to their inherently higher fuel consumption, boaters
must pay far more taxes per mile than automobiles, yet receive a
minuscule return for these fees in comparison. Now with even further
cutbacks on these services, and no corresponding reduction in our
mandatory contributions, we can expect this situation to worsen.
The process the Coast Guard has undertaken has been one of soliciting
input on its proposals from various interests, and then making a
decision. The decision to remove 26 markers from Little Current Harbor
entrances was amended in December 1997 to the removal of nine markers,
after a local letter writing campaign and public meeting convinced the
Coast Guard to amend the list. The removal of all those markers would
have had a detrimental effect on the safety of navigation in the area,
and thus the tourist dependant local economy, especially since a large
European cruise ship (Ms Columbus) plans to make the town a regular stop
on its voyages.
I would urge your magazine, and its readers, to contact the Canadian
Coast Guard as soon as possible and ask them for details on proposed
removals of aids to navigation in the Great Lakes. Then get your charts
out and compare them to the Coast Guard list of discontinued aids. If
you do any boating in the Great Lakes in Canadian Waters, your safety is
Thank you for your assistance, and safe boating.
President, North Channel Preservation Society
The undersigned, as President, and the Associates of this association, wish to record their strongest opposition to the proposed removal of the navigational aides, and their continuing maintenance in any area of the Great Lakes, by the Canadian Coast Guard.
Principally, we are concerned with the areas of the North Channel and Georgian Bay, but our position applies to all navigable waters under the jurisdiction of the Coast Guard.
I assume the reason advanced by the Coast Guard in this proposal, is economic, but there can be no such savings in effect, later, after the aides are removed, leaving two and a half million boaters effectively lost, stranded, or sunk, in their attempts to find their way over effectively mischarted waters.
If the rationale is the use of the G.P.S. by all boaters, then I must advise that very few recreational boaters use such a system exclusively. Few maintain it for such use, without first checking the accuracy of the system with visual identification of the threatened markers available, in sight, to confirm that accuracy. The Selective Availability signal degradation generated by the U.S. Department of Defense that maintains the G.P.S. system, reduces accuracy to a minimum of 100 metres. This resolution is far less than what is required to navigate many of the narrow channels found in Georgian Bay and the Great Lakes. Indeed, I have never known yet, of any system or instruments, no matter how esoteric, that has ever worked perfectly at all times. I might say, that the system closest to perfection is the one now in place, where the channel markers are known, charted, seen, and acted upon over and over again, thus removing or substantially reducing any error factor, to the effective perfection of identification of the hazards of the area.
Do not fix that which is not broken. The cost of maintenance of the universal, historical, and accepted system of buoys and markers is minimal, especially when compared to the demands that will be made on the Coast Guard when part-time sailors are required to guess their positions and trust in blind luck to get through to their destination.
I assume as well that with the disappearance of the present markers for navigation, the prior published charts will have to be updated. This will be a very real and costly irritant to the boating public.
Does the Coast Guard really understand the prestige and trust it enjoys with millions of people who, without question, place their lives in the effective protection of the Coast Guard. What now this unnecessary bureaucratic non-sense will do to that trust?
This proposal obviously will in effect mean a reduction in the number or size of the recreational boating community, including international visitors. The economic effects will be widespread over the province. Those millions of private boaters to some degree will prudently withdraw when the certainty of safety is reduced or removed. This will be felt by the marina, tourist, hotel, recreational, boat manufacturing and maintenance and retails of all supplies to boating, communities, at least to some degree. I would think our Federal Government would be trying to avoid this change.
President, North Channel Preservation Society
February 5th, 1998
Mr. R. Childerhose, Supervisor, Marine Aid Program, Canada Coast Guard:
I appreciate the efforts of the Canadian Coast Guard to invite input from the recreational boating community regarding its proposals for changes to the aids in navigation systems in the Georgian Bay Area.
I wish to make some specific comments on the list of changes, with regard to your statements in your November 20th, 1997 letter to me.
In your correspondence of November 20th, 1997, you state that the “Coast Guard will maintain a minimum 75% availability of visual aids within confined channels for both pleasure craft and commercial carriers.” Furthermore, you state that “There will be no changes to pleasure craft aids in confined channels due to availability of DGPS.”
These seemed like reasonable measures that would ensure continuation of many of the aids that contribute greatly to the safety of the boating community.
However, the revised list includes many additional discontinuances which I feel warrant closer examination.
I personally have extensive experience in the Eastern North Channel area, and have navigated boats all my life in the waters between Little Current and Baie Fine. I was, for example, extremely concerned by the proposal to discontinue markers EH through EH6 Baie Fine. This proposal constitutes a level of service of zero percent in this confined channel as opposed to the 75% described in your letter of November 20th.
This is a very heavily traveled passage way used by many Canadian and American cruisers en-route to the popular anchorage at the foot of Baie Fine known as The Pool. The route into Baie Fine is very hazardous, as there are numerous submerged rocks all through the area of passage.
The marked channel takes you right along the north shore then directly across to the south shore where one must literally squeeze between submerged rocks following the shore line in a channel no more than thirty feet wide in spots. Yachts as large as 120 feet long have been safely guided by Coast Guard navigational markers through this area for decades, and on any given weekend in the summer as many as 60 large cruisers can be found enjoying the scenic beauty of the bay.
As a user of GPS on my own boat for the past three years, I know first hand that the satellite signals are effectively obscured by the steep rocky hills of the shoreline, making visual navigation aids the only method that can be used to safely locate your vessel through the narrows. This is especially critical when navigating this area at dusk or when weather renders the visibility poor.
Furthermore, the marker EH warns boaters of a dangerous deep shoal along the edge of the channel between McGregor Bay and Baie Fine. Therefore, based on personal experience, and in the interests of safety in a potentially treacherous and high traffic area not serviced by GPS or any other aids, I would urge you not to discontinue the navigational aids EH through EH6.
I suspect that among the 30 other proposed discontinuances between the North Channel and Parry Sound there are many other similar areas of high traffic with narrow or confined channels that might warrant further review. Perhaps before declaring an aid redundant and therefore proposing to discontinue it, you might take a marine traffic count at its location to see if it is in fact no longer used, and also check to see if the surrounding terrain and the width of the channel allow GPS to be used as a suitable and safe navigational substitute.
As a boater I question the wisdom of the ministry in requiring the Coast Guard, which is fundamentally an organization concerned with the safety of Canadians on the water, to essentially violate its own mandate by removing the very navigational aids that are so essential to the safety of all types of mariners.
Such proposed discontinuances are undoubtedly motivated by ministerial austerity measures however, I submit that as consumers of government services the boating community enjoys a very minute level of services in terms of its contribution. Boaters pay the same level of fuel taxes as automobiles, and due to their inherently higher fuel consumption rates, pay vastly higher taxes per mile, yet receive only the services of the Coast Guard in return for its tax contributions. These navigation aids are the roadways of the water, and boaters pay for them.
I would also submit that any cost savings, achieved through the deletion of navigational aids that mark under water hazards, would be more than offset by the additional costs of search and rescue operations that will undoubtably be required as pleasure craft strike the previously marked hazards. Therefore, I do not believe that any real financial savings will be realized.
Furthermore, a recent decision by the Ontario Court of Justice last fall in favour of a motorist who suffered injuries and damages as a result of inadequate road salting, shows that governments and their agencies are in fact legally responsible and can be held liable, for the safety of its citizens who travel their roadways. I would like to suggest that the Coast Guard might wish to explore its legal responsibilities, and that the removal of so many navigational aids might create an unsafe condition at least as hazardous to the public as inadequately salted roads.
Thank you for the opportunity to provide our input and to consideration of our concerns.
North Channel Preservation Society