Sixteen derelict boats litter Cadboro Bay beach — all on the Oak Bay side. It’s a “disgusting” situation, says Eric Dahli, chairman of the Cadboro Bay Residents Association — far worse than the five vessels the association had already demanded that Oak Bay address, and compounded by gas tanks, oil cans and evidence of fires.
He cited a 36-foot-long steel-hulled wreck as the worst example despoiling the beach. “It probably had a fire on it and they just let it go.”
If it gets no response from Oak Bay to its letters of complaint, Dahli said the group plans to attend the next council meeting, set for March 13, as part of its fight to clean up the Oak Bay side of Cadboro Bay. “Depending on what they say, we will be going to Oak Bay council with torches and pitchforks if necessary.”
Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen has said he tried to convince B.C. cabinet ministers in recent years to take responsibility and doesn’t see why Oak Bay taxpayers should pay for a job that belongs to the province. The municipality’s jurisdiction is above the tide line, he said
Some of the wrecks are half in provincial jurisdiction — the inter-tidal zone — and others are in Oak Bay’s bailiwick, Dahli said. At low tide, there is nothing to stop children from reaching the wrecks.
In letters demanding action from Oak Bay sent Feb. 9 and 19, the association said that Saanich had cleared the wrecks on its side of Cadboro Bay and expected the same from its neighbour.
The 16 derelict vessels are all located at or near GPS location 48.457N-123.298W.
Included are a 23-foot sailboat called the Shaman, a 25-foot sailboat called the Debate “filled with junk, oil containers, various materials floating in unidentified liquids with a petroleum-like sheen,” Dahli said, and a 15-foot long hunk of a Ferro cement hull.
There are also several Fiberglas dinghies and a 15-foot canoe called Mirage.
Veins of Life Watershed Society founder John Roe, a waterway clean-up veteran, plans to attend the association’s meeting on Wednesday. Both the Oak Bay Community Association and the Victoria Yacht Club have indicated they are on board, Dahli said. “The yacht club has agreed to let us use their boat ramp to drag the junk out of the water and provide some volunteers to assist in cleaning the Oak Bay portion of the beach,” planned for May 13, he said Friday.
Roe said he has received permission from Oak Bay municipal staff to borrow equipment for the undertaking. Dahli said that clean-up date is not finalized.
NDP candidate Bryce Casavant, who is running for the provincial Oak Bay-Gordon Head seat on May 9, said blaming municipal leaders for the problem is unfair.
“Municipalities and taxpayers have voiced their concerns about derelict vessels loudly and clearly, but it is the provincial government that must show leadership to ensure that this environmental issue is dealt with, rather than trying to pass off derelict vessels as only within the purview of the federal government,” he said in a statement.
Green MLA Andrew Weaver has said that Oak Bay has missed the boat on the issue, but he has also pressed B.C. Minister of Natural Resource Operations Steve Thomson to do something. Oak Bay should follow the Saanich lead and seek cost-sharing with the province, Weaver has said.
A Feb. 20 email from Thomsonsays that he supports having ministry staff arrange to meet with Oak Bay staff early in the new fiscal year, which starts April 1, “to jointly evaluate the situation and to prepare a cost estimate and priority ranking for removal of the various vessels.
“This will form part of a plan of action in the event that operational funding becomes available and in anticipation of the federal funding that was recently announced as part of Canada’s Oceans Strategy,” Thomson wrote.
Dahli is concerned that the province will just look at the issue, not necessarily take action. “I’m hoping we can shortcut all the bureaucracy and if necessary we’re getting a work party down there and do it. And we’re going to invite politicians of all stripes to work with us.”
Carole Witter, president of the West Bay Residents Association in Esquimalt, cautioned that some of the wrecks were likely “the last stop before homelessness” for some people who once lived in them. Co-owner of Hidden Harbour Marina on West Bay, Witter said that in many cases, the boats were likely given to people with nowhere else to live and did not have motors. “They’re just a shelter, not really a boat.”
Wreck inventory could help unlock federal money
The founder of the Veins of Life Watershed Society is seeking public help to inventory the number and location of derelict boats that have plagued capital region shorelines for decades.
John Roe says he’s working with his partners to get the vessels carted away “once and for all,” but wants to collect information including detailed locations and descriptions by April 1 to access any money earmarked for the issue in the federal budget this month.
Roe estimates as many as 50 derelicts have washed up on beaches in the region, including the Gulf Islands. He says federal and provincial governments have “downloaded” the problem to municipalities, but he still favours the hands-on approach that helped him clean up the once-polluted Gorge Waterway.
Veins disbanded in 2008, but now it’s back — “doing what we do best, cleaning up everyone’s crap and empowering the community,” he said in an email to the Times Colonist.
“No promises made or given, but if we don’t get our act together here in the Islands Trust and the CRD, this problem will continue to grow.”
If you want to help inventory derelicts, here is what’s needed:
• photos of the vessel, including the inside if possible
• photos of damage that makes the boat hard to float
• measurements of length, width and depth
• GPS location as exactly as possible
• identification of any kind, such as engine serial numbers, hull serial numbers, painted-over names and 14K number or contact information.
• notation of anything that seems hazardous, such as paints or oils. Fuel tanks should be tapped to see if they sound full or empty.
Send information to firstname.lastname@example.org