Monday, February 10, 2014

Never Can Say Goodbye

Derelict boat on the rocks by Inukshuk photo by Junie Quiroga
Once again, after a typical northwest winter wind storm, another derelict boat ends up on the rocks, and the taxpayers have a mess to clean up.  This is because if the owner is not known or doesn't come forward the City must pay the recovery and disposal costs. Whether it's because the owners can't find affordable moorage or they are merely exercising their rights in federally regulated waters, the derelict boat issue has spread to communities all over the coast creating a headache for municipal officials, an eyesore for the general public, and a hazard to other boaters.

Derelict boat on Kits beach photo by Junie Quiroga
But it's not just personal recreational boats that are clogging the waterways and washing up on shore, there are a fair number of commercial eyesores in and around the Vancouver harbour as well.  Vessels like the McDonald's barge which have been floating in Burrard Inlet since Expo 86, decommissioned B.C. ferries like the Queen of Sidney tied up in the Fraser River, the Queen of Saanich at anchor in Howe Sound waiting to be towed away by scrap dealers, and old fish boats too numerous to mention.

Derelict McDonald's barge from Expo 86 in Burrard Inlet

Derelict Queen of Saanich in Howe Sound
Derelict Queen of Sidney in Fraser River
Derelict fish boat in Howe Sound
The issue is one of jurisdiction at a variety of overlapping government levels, with nobody wanting to step up to the plate and take charge, which would mean paying the cost of cleaning things up.  While Vancouver was partially successful in removing boats from False Creek the problem simply moved to English Bay where the boats are now at the mercy of frequent storms. The community of Bowen Island is trying to remove derelict boats clogging Mannion Bay but there is only partial federal funding for the initiative and residents are being asked to donate money to make up the difference.

Derelict boats in Gunderson Slough before clean-up
One recent breakthrough however is the Port of Metro Vancouver's Fraser River Improvement Initiative that has targeted derelict vessels and structures that pose a threat to wildlife, habitat and/or navigation along the river. Over 350 notices have been sent to residents in Delta, Richmond, and Surrey with 140 identified as problem areas. The tenants who own or rent property identified as a problem area have been given a non-negotiable directive to clean-up and, for a change, it's to be done at their own expense.

Squatter & derelict boats in Port Moody photo by Lisa King
Squatter boats and derelict boats are also being targeted in Port Moody with an Anchor Management initiative recently announced between Port Moody and the Port of Metro Vancouver that will designate appropriate areas for respectful anchoring, for a fee, and removal of boats that don't comply.  While these initiatives are certainly welcome, they don't address the concerns of other ocean front communities in places like Victoria, Saltspring, Gabriola, Nanaimo, Lasqueti, and Campbell River to name a few who are still waiting for Transport Canada to pass appropriate legislation and regulations.

Derelict boats in Victoria
Aside from their obviously unsightly appearance these derelict and squatter boats for the most part have no holding tanks for sewage, if they sink they will invariably leak fuel and other toxic components into the waterways and, being made of fibreglass materials, they won't even disintegrate either.  Any way you look at it they are a hazard to the environment, and the only way to properly dispose of them is to have them taken to a facility on land where they can be re-cycled at a place like Shelter Island. For whatever reason the owners of these junk boats can never seem to say goodbye to them, but it's time someone did it for them.

Shelter Island boat re-cycling