My husband's family has lived in the same house in Upper LaHave for well over 100 years. We are the third generation to live in the house; our children the fourth.
Since at least the 1930s, there has been a wharf in front of the house. From time to time, it has been replaced; the last time being about 20 years ago. At the time, we sought all of the required permits.
Since then, the wharf gradually deteriorated and we lost it completely during Hurricane Dorian, leaving a bit of a mess on our shoreline. We now want to clean up the old wharf and replace it with one that actually intrudes less into the river than our last one. As before, we sought the appropriate permits, which may have been where we went wrong.
One of the permitting authorities, Transport Canada, told us that our waterfront is part of the Port of Bridgewater and falls under federal jurisdiction. As a consequence, we cannot do any work on the wharf or even have a mooring in front of our house without first obtaining a federal water lot lease.
This entails a survey by a certified land surveyor and an annual rental fee, which we were quoted would be about $ 200.00 annually, subject to an appraisal by federal authorities. When we contacted a survey firm, we were advised that a survey would cost approximately $1500 to $2000.
When we pushed back on these requirements, we were advised that we were allowed to correct any unsafe conditions but could not otherwise do any work on our waterfront, even though our deed indicates we own to the high water mark. This was the first time that we heard of the requirement for a water lot lease, even thought we were granted permits from the required federal authorities 20 years ago, including one from Transport Canada.
According to the documentation we received from Transport Canada, "any harbour that was used for commercial purposes" at the time of Confederation became a public harbour and under control of the federal government. The Town of Bridgewater is approximately nine kilometres by highway up the river from our home. We live in a cove and not on the shipping channel into Bridgewater. To our knowledge, at this time, there is no commercial activity at the Port of Bridgewater, except for Synder's Shipyard, which is probably five kilometres by road up the river from our house.
We have never seen a commercial vessel stop in our cove on its way to Bridgewater. Perhaps, back in the 1800s our cove may have been used for some commercial purposes related to the Port of Bridgewater, but certainly has not been in any recent memory.
When we advised the people at Transport Canada that we know many residents along both sides of the river who have wharves and moorings who do not have a water lot lease, we were advised that the Department has instituted a program to ensure going forward that water lots leases are required for any moorings or work on the shoreline, and that there is a program in the works to require all existing moorings, docks and wharves on waterfront properties to be in compliance with these requirements.
To our mind, there is no logical reason why Upper LaHave, in this day and age, is included as part of the Port of Bridgewater. Furthermore, the federal government's proposed "program" to ensure that all residents on the water with a wharf, dock or mooring must have a water lot lease is simply expensive bureaucratic red tape and a ploy for the federal government to further tax us. I encourage all residents who live along the river from the outskirts of Bridgewater to the Bare Hills ( the area defined as the Port of Bridgewater) write to their local MP to express their dissatisfaction with this
initiative. In the meantime, we're not sure what to do with the mess on our shoreline!