Who’s responsible for floating derelicts?

Abandoned vessels still a problem for Saanich Peninsula communities and local harbours

A derelict sailboat rests near Nymph Point in North Saanich. Abandonded vessels continue to be a concern for local governments and habour authorities who say little is being done to clean up the shores.

There’s an abandoned sailboat near Nymph Point in North Saanich, run aground between two local marinas. It has been there for some time yet there are apparently no plans to remove it.

This is one of many derelict or abandoned vessels along the coast of southern Vancouver Island and elsewhere. They can be a hazard to navigation, present environmental concerns and can be an eyesore but local governments and industry representatives are frustrated there’s no plan in place to remove them. They are also tired of talking about it without seeing any commitment from senior levels of government to come up with a permanent solution.

“The problem is becoming worse,” said Janet Rooke, harbour manager at Tsehum Harbour in North Saanich.

She addressed North Saanich District council Nov. 4 during debate of an Islands Trust motion to ask the Union of B.C. Municipalities to petition provincial and federal officials for a solution — one that mainly involves funding.

“The problem is mainly due to the demise of a fishery,” Rooke explained. “Boats become a liability when their value is ties to a fishing license.”

When the fishing industry is hit hard, she continued, those boats that work the water don’t have a lot of value.

That can lead to vessels left to decay or simply abandoned.

“It’s an ongoing problem,” agreed Councillor Elsie McMurphy. “It’s getting worse and nobody is … willing to take up any responsibility. North Saanich has a lot of coastline and the issue here is real.”

Mayor Alice Finall said there was a flurry of activity by the federal government some three or four years ago to clean up derelict or abandoned boats along the coastline of southern Vancouver Island but the problem persists.

One of the main issues with continuing on with any clean up, she said, is who will pay for it.

“There’s no real way to access funds and that leaves the expense to local municipalities,” Finall said. “But this doesn’t address the issue.”

North Saanich council was clearly frustrated by this. Coun. Craig Mearns said he isn’t sure whats going to change the status quo.

“Maybe we’re just expressing our dissatisfaction here,” he said.

Coun. Conny McBride noted that someone needs to be pushed to take on this responsibility, before the problem grows any larger.

Council did vote to support the Islands Trust request to the UBCM and added their own concerns in the hope of sparking a response from the province and federal government.

Rooke said there’s nothing new about the issue — or in what she sees in a new provincial manual for addressing problem vessels.

“This report is nothing new,” she said, adding it rehashes old information and does not have a permanent funding model.

Rooke added she has been invited to a meeting of small craft harbours in Ottawa later this month, which will include an effort to try to secure funding from agencies like Transport Canada, Environment Canada and the Coast Guard.

North Saanich council did succeed in getting the topic on last week’s tri-municipal meeting with Central Saanich and the Town of Sidney. The municipalities could only agree to discuss the matter further.

 

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