Victoria won’t make waves on derelict boat problem

Victoria will take a “slow and steady” approach to clearing out derelicts and other boats moored in the Gorge waterway, says Mayor Lisa Helps.

“It will be a gradual enforcement, starting with signs,” Helps said.

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“There’s a mix of people there. Some people are genuinely homeless other than their boats, and there are some people who are just choosing to stay there because they don’t want to pay moorage rates at any of the marinas, so there will be that conversation,” she said.

“If there are people who are genuinely vulnerable, council has given really clear direction to staff to try to take that seriously and to try to find alternatives for those folks.”

The city has been working for about two years to find a way to deal with the boats, some derelict, anchored just northwest of the Selkirk Trestle off Banfield Park.

In the summer of 2014, councillors adopted a bylaw to rezone the waterway for recreational use only.

The bylaw specifies the waterway is intended to be used primarily as a park and that live-aboards, float homes and overnight anchorage and moorage are not permitted in the area.

Although the bylaw was passed, the city required a licence of occupation over the waterway from the province before it could be enforced. That licence has been received, and staff are developing a management-implementation plan for the water lot, which is expected to be before councillors next month, said city spokeswoman Katie Hamilton.

Helps said the first step likely will be to put notices on the boats saying that the city has a licence of occupation, the area is ecologically sensitive and the boaters are no longer welcome, Helps said.

“Then we’ll see who moves,” she said.

There have long been complaints that some of the boats are in poor repair and leaking fuel and oil, and that boaters are dumping sewage and are careless with their garbage.

There are about a dozen boats in the area.

Helps said Victoria staff also are working with Saanich staff, who want to ensure the boats moored near the trestle don’t simply move into that jurisdiction.

Coun. Ben Isitt would like to see specific solutions for each individual living there, “whether it’s assisting them in finding alternate moorage or assisting them in finding them accommodation or housing within the city.”

“I certainly think discussion and negotiation is preferable to any kind of heavy-handed enforcement,” Isitt said.

He would like the city to reconsider its position to ban overnight moorage.

“I think it over-reaches, and I think the right to anchor is a right that’s incidental to the right of mariners to navigate waterways,” Isitt said.

While the area is probably not suitable for permanent anchoring, Isitt has proposed the city install tie-up buoys and allow a 48-hour maximum for boats. He said there is nothing in the bylaw that prohibits boats from dropping anchor during the day.

“I think having vessels and anchorage is part of living in a maritime community, and I think if the city were to install moorage buoys, allowing time-limited anchorage, that would address issues in terms of not disrupting the seabed.”

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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