Twenty-six B.C. groups are among a national coalition calling for noise regulations on boat manufacturers and users as Transport Canada asks for public feedback on the issue.
Established in 2019, the Decibel Coalition is made up of cottage associations, environmental groups and municipalities across Canada, all fed up with excessive boat noise for one reason or another.
Gary Milne, a Shuswap Lake cottage owner and Shuswap & Mara Lakes Decibel Coalition board member, decided to get involved a few years ago.
Originally, he was concerned about the number of deaths on the lake each year and their possible connection to speeding boats. Quickly though, Milne said he and other cottage owners made the connection between fast boats and noise. When it comes to powerful engines, Milne found the two irritants seem to go hand-in-hand.
Finding no one was doing much about it at the time, Milne pulled together a group of people and began recording the decibel levels of particularly loud boats passing by. He said a number of them exceeded 100 decibels – a level somewhere between a movie theatre and a concert, according to hearing aid company Miracle Ear.
On top of that, Milne said the mountainous terrain means noise resonates across the lake even when a loud boat isn’t particularly nearby. He estimated he hears around 12 noisy boats a day during the summer, for approximately 15 minutes each.
“It’s really aggravating,” he said.
Research also suggests excessive noise has a detrimental effect on wildlife. A 2018 paper on emerging threats to freshwater biodiversity found “boat noise elevates the stress hormone cortisol and increases metabolic expenditure while reducing foraging performance and anti-predator behaviours in freshwater fish.”
The Decibel Coalition has been appealing to Transport Canada for changes for years, so it was relieved this month when it saw the government agency had launched a public consultation on the issue.
Transport Canada is suggesting five different options, including making no changes at all, clarifying existing requirements, implementing standards for only manufacturers, implementing standards for only vessel operators, or implementing standards for both manufacturers and operators.
The coalition is calling for the last option. These changes would make sure new and existing small boats don’t exceed noise-emission levels and allow police to more easily identify whether vessels are complying or not. It would require police to buy new equipment and train officers, and for some vessel owners to modify their boats.
Milne said it would allow for him to finally enjoy the peace and tranquillity he thought he was purchasing when he chose his cottage in the first place. He expects if regulations are approved it will be another few years before they’re enforceable.
The public consultation is open until May 13 and can be found at letstalktransportation.ca.