Dead Boats group tackles Pender

CRD supports further data collection and province gets involved

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The Dead Boats Disposal Society is continuing to clear coastal inlets and beaches of abandoned boats, with a work program targeting Pender Island completed last Wednesday.

Salt Spring-based society founder John Roe reported that through the federal Abandoned Boats Program, Salish Sea Industrial Services removed nine boats and extra marine debris from the area, including locations at Bedwell Harbour, Port Browning, Montague Harbour and Hawkins Island.

“It was a great day on Pender Island, with lots of people expressing their gratitude,” Roe said. “Many advisors on Pender assisted in inventories and finding owners.”

Around 100 vessels have been identified and approved for removal from the region. The society has created community inventories and also relies on tips from the public about problem boats. Most of the vessels Roe surveys have either sunk or smashed up on the beach and are slowly polluting the environment.

Boat owners who can be identified can sign over authority to have their abandoned vessel removed. If the boat’s owner cannot be identified, the society must issue a 30-day notice and make an application for removal with Transport Canada. Once the boat is removed with a barge and crane, it is tested for contaminants, dismantled and sent to landfills.

Roe attended the Capital Regional District Board meeting on Aug. 14 to give an update on the project and advocate for additional support, while director Ben Isitt introduced two motions related to ocean and shoreline health that were ultimately approved at the meeting. The first directs staff to explore potential improvements to local regulations, policies and programs, using the University of Victoria Environmental Law Centre’s report Cleaning Up CRD Waterways and Beaches as a reference.

The second motion asks staff to report back on the financial implications, potential partnerships and feasibility of mapping sunken vessels in select areas of the region. Suggested Salt Spring locations are Fulford Harbour and Burgoyne Bay, as well as Vancouver Island’s Sooke Basin, Esquimalt Harbour, Victoria Harbour, Gorge Waterway, Oak Bay, Cadboro Bay and Brentwood Bay.

Isitt explained the motion stemmed from an ongoing partnership between the Dead Boats Disposal Society and the CRD to make use of the federal funding for abandoned boats. Isitt acknowledged some directors might feel the matter of wrecked boats is best left to the federal government, but said he thought that would be a mistake.

“When you look at the results we’ve gotten in the last two years, when the CRD decided to take a small step outside our jurisdiction, the action we’ve gotten playing that coordinating function is amazing: 100 vessels dealt with,” Isitt said. “And so I don’t think we want to lose all of the momentum, all of the partnerships, by winding up the program when we deal with the vessels on the surface.”

Isitt added he did not support CRD money going toward sunken vessel removal, but did feel data gathering and coordination was an appropriate community contribution.

Roe spoke in favour of the mapping in a delegation to the board. He noted the Dead Boats Disposal Society has been doing its own mapping and data collection but could really use help with more getting information.

The provincial government has also been working on the issue within its areas of jurisdiction. It is currently exploring ways to prevent vessels from being abandoned in the first place and to find recycling solutions to keep salvaged marine debris out of landfills.

For more on this story, see the August 28, 2019 issue of the Gulf Islands Driftwood newspaper, or subscribe online.

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