OUR VIEW: Central Saanich is rocking the boat

For the sake of the environment, Central Saanich is taking positive steps to address issues of derelict vessels in Brentwood Bay.

For the sake of the environment, Central Saanich is taking positive steps to address issues of derelict vessels in Brentwood Bay.

The municipality is even planning on paying an estimated $18,000 to remove two damaged and half-sunk boats out of the water within their jurisdiction.

That amount of money is, however, only a drop in the bucket of what it’s going to take to remove abandoned or damaged vessels — and represents a pittance of the potential environmental damage caused when a boat sinks or is broken up on the shore in a storm.

Central Saanich, it seems, has had enough and wishes to ensure the boats moored off its shores are well-kept, safe and limited in numbers. By using their own tax dollars to do it, however, they run the risk of becoming the only ones actually doing anything about the problem.

Paying for boat removal or clean up has arguably been the main obstacle in dealing with the issue for years.

There are three government bodies involved in this issue: local governments that are faced with the direct impact; provincial governments that control environmental regulations and; the federal government that holds jurisdiction over most navigable waterways.

The question has been: who pays when vessels have to be removed and the environment cleaned up? Ideally the owners of such vessels would be held to account but sometimes they cannot be found or are unable to pay. That leaves clean-up to government and its taxpayers.

As a result, the issue crosses many jurisdictions and tends to be bounced back and forth until public pressure forces one level of government to actually do something.

Yet the actions of a single level of government can have unforeseen consequences on the matter. Take the City of Victoria’s eviction of boats from the Gorge Waterway. Some are already turning up in Brentwood Bay, according to watchdogs, and who knows where else. This is simply foisting a local program onto someone else.

As a coastal area, dealing with the problem should not be done in isolation. The region would be better served to form a single voice to lobby Victoria and Ottawa to present a unified position on how the problem can be dealt with.