Transport Minister Marc Garneau was in Ladysmith on Monday announcing more than $1.3-million in funding that in part will be decidated towards the education and removal of abandoned boats with the local municipality and Capital Regional District of Victoria among the major recipients.
Locally, the town has received $62,400 of the $90,000 in total that will also be shared by the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority and BC Parks for the removal of 12 vessels altogether.
The funding provided through the Abandoned Boats Program will go towards removing seven vessels in Ladysmith Harbour, including three that are grounded off of Slack Point.
Making the announcement at the Ladysmith Community Marina, Garneau said first phase of funding will “get the ball rolling” in cleaning up the wrecks.
“In due course what we’re going to do is a complete inventory of all the abandoned vessels that exist in Canada – that’s never been done on all three coasts,” he said.
“One of the things we will be looking at is to create a fund that vessels owners contribute to, we do this in the oil business…. and we’re thinking of creating a similar fund in the case of abandoned vessel so that there will be a pool of money.”
Two vessels included in the Ladysmith’s original application were washed away in a recent storm.
Mayor Aaron Stone said the town is taking a phased approach to tackling the issue plaguing local waters.
“This is just an initial phase of some of the most egregious examples that we have in our harbour,” he said.
“We’ve taken a priority-based approach to this understanding that there is limited funding available. We are going to be making subsequent applications to move through that backlog but as we work through that we’ll hopefully be able to get to it through the next few years but we understand also that there are other communities who are going to be vying for that funding.”
The Capital Regional District of Victoria, the Pender Harbour Advisory Council, and the District of Sechelt will all split up to $90,000 to assess 26 abandoned boats and wrecks. Once completed, they will then be eligible to apply for federal funding to help in the removal of the boats.
CRD is also receiving $50,100 to deliver an outreach program to educate boat owners on recycling and disposal options in the hopes of addressing abandonment issues in the region. The not-for-profit Boating BC Association also will be provided with $150,000 for a campaign aimed at increasing awareness around owners of end of life boats.
As Transport Canada estimates there are possibly thousands of these abandoned vessels, Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP Sheila Malcolmson said the funding was a “drop in the bucket” compared to what’s actually needed to address the issue.
“Much deeper offer, much deeper commitment by the government needed to deal with the backlog that still faces coastal communities,” she said, while also lending some praise to the funding that will go towards recycling and disposal initiatives which also formed part of her private member’s bill C-352.
“I’m concerned also that the participation rate in this abandoned vessel removal program remains very low…we’ve heard from Sunshine Coast (Regional District) on the coast of B.C. that they don’t even have the taxation authority in order to spend dollars on this program.”
While the federal government funding for the removal of abandoned boats makes up three quarters of the cost, municipalities such as Ladysmith are required to cover the remaining 25 per cent.
Also announced on Monday as part of the Small Craft Harbours, Abandoned and Wrecked Vessels Removal Program, over $140,000 will be divided among four harbour authorities for the nine abandoned boats at harbours owned by Fishers and Oceans Canada, including three in British Columbia – Ford Cove Harbour Authority, Powell River Harbour Authority and Port Edward Harbour Authority.
“Our coastal landscapes, our ports, our small craft harbours, these are our great wealth. They are significant elements of our Canadian identity and our economy and I can’t help but admire the beauty of Ladysmith as I come here today,” Garneau said.
“We must do everything we can to protect them so that this generation and the ones to come can continue to enjoy them.”
The Abandoned Boats Program is a five-year, $6.8-million initiative and the second call for proposals for removal projects is this week.
Stone was optimistic of future prospects of Ladysmith and Stz’uminus First Nation working together to clean up the harbour.
“It’s a good start.This is a very vibrant piece of our local economy and has been growing over the last years and one of the main things people lament when they come here is the derelict and abandoned vessels that sort of litter the shoreline and around the harbour,” he said.
“Every step forward is positive so we have to take that as it is.”