Nearly four years of delays after it was first announced, work on a new spill response base is set to begin in late October at Beecher Bay in East Sooke.
The new base will be split between nine response vessels, two landing craft and a workboat stationed at the Cheanuh Marina, and a warehouse and office built upland with East Sooke Road access. The base has begun the hiring process for 20 full-time staff.
This base is part of a larger $150-million expansion by Western Canada Marine Response (WCMRC) into Sidney, Port Alberni, Nanaimo, and Ucluelet to meet enhanced spill response requirements with the Trans Mountain expansion project.
The Beecher Bay base will allow for a six-hour response time if an oil spill occurs, a significant drop from the previous standard of 72 hours along the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
“This base makes me feel more confident that if a boat runs up on the rocks or crashes into another boat, it won’t be tragic,” said Mike Hicks, Juan de Fuca Electoral Area director for the Capital Regional District.
“It doesn’t prevent oil from going into the Strait at all, but it will definitely be a strong frontline to protect our waterways when something happens.”
Hicks pointed out that he’s eager to see an escort tug added to bring outgoing tankers out to Port Renfrew instead of Metchosin’s Race Rocks, to help as an additional safety net.
WCMRC has signed an agreement with Scia’new (Beecher Bay) First Nations to build the land base.
A temporary gangway will be installed during construction to ensure boat owners can access their boats, so the work will not impact neighbouring residents and businesses.
“When the Trans Mountain pipeline plans were put on hold, our enhancements were tied to that too,” said WCMRC communications manager Michael Lowry.
“We’ll start moving vessels in as soon as they are built. We’re looking forward to the docks being completed by summer 2021.”
Work on the docks will begin in late October and be complete next summer. Construction of the warehouse and office will start in July, and the entire base will be fully operational by fall 2022.
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