Volunteers get ready to clean up derelict boats amid inaction

Volunteers unwilling to wait for government action have mobilized to clean up 10 or more derelict boats despoiling the Oak Bay side of Cadboro Bay.

They plan to gather on May 13 for the cleanup, and are especially concerned about a 36-foot-long steel-hulled wreck.

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“We’re 99 per cent there,” in terms of organization to get it done, said Eric Dahli of the Cadboro Bay Residents Association, who has spearheaded the removal.

There were 16 wrecks just a few weeks back, but owners appear to have dragged some if them away, he said.

Abandoned and unsafe vessels and wrecks are under overlapping federal, provincial and municipal jurisdictions, depending on the tide lines.

MPs voted unanimously Oct. 26 on a Liberal motion to give the federal government six months to address derelict boats that threaten waterways across Canada, Nanaimo-Ladysmith NDP MP Sheila Malcolmson said. That deadline arrived on Wednesday. But, Malcolmson said, “we have yet to see any money budgeted, legislation tabled, or mechanisms identified to deal with abandoned vessels.”

Malcolmson has tabled bill C-352 to start a vessel turn-in program that she said would create green jobs in marine-salvage businesses.

The province should take over vessel registration, she said, to “end the run-around and finger-pointing by designating [the Canadian] Coast Guard as the agency responsible for directing the removal and recycling of abandoned vessels,” her website states.

In an interview with the Times Colonist, she said that federal oversight of vessel registration has “fallen into deep disrepair,” suggesting the provincial government take over registration in much the same way that it deals with the sale of used cars — “and we don’t have old abandoned cars lying around like we used to.”

A provincial registration fee could help cover the cost of vessel disposal, she said.

Malcolmson said when she was chair of the Islands Trust, she met several times with B.C. cabinet ministers on the issue of derelict boats, at one point leading a delegation of 19 local governments trying to get action.

But after 10 years of pressing the issue, “we never had a piece of responsible action,” she said. “It’s very disappointing.”

As for Cadboro Bay, helping make the May 13 cleanup happen are Cadboro Bay and Oak Bay residents associations, Royal Victoria Yacht Club and The Veins of Life Watershed Society.

Some of the Oak Bay wrecks are half in provincial jurisdiction — the intertidal zone — and others are in Oak Bay’s bailiwick given that at low tide, there is nothing to stop children from reaching the wrecks, Dahli said.

Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen has said he tried to persuade B.C. cabinet ministers in recent years to take responsibility.

Oak Bay-Gordon Head NDP candidate Bryce Casavant said it’s not good enough for the province to try “to pass off derelict vessels as only within the purview of the federal government.”

Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver, MLA for the riding, has called the issue “a jurisdictional nightmare” and suggested Oak Bay follow the Saanich lead and seek cost-sharing on removals with the province to clear its side of Cadboro Bay.

B.C. Minister of Natural Resource Operations Steve Thomson said in an email Feb. 20 that he supports having ministry staff meet with Oak Bay staff “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.

Malcolmson said that the federal budget in March re-announced the Oceans Protections Plan, but there was no funding attached.

kdedyna@timescolonist.com

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