Sooke marine search and rescue seeking financial help

Sooke district plans to team up with West Shore communities to help fund local RCM-SAR

On Victoria Day, Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue Station 37 crews were called out to help a small boat which had broken down on the outside of Whiffin Spit and was dangerously close to shore.

The SAR crew weaved its way through the rocky enclave and inched its way close enough to pass a towline. The stranded boat was taken out of harm’s way.

It was one of the many rescues RCM-SAR volunteers perform every year, but now the group needs help of its own, Scott Burchett, president of the Juan de Fuca Marine Rescue Society, told District of Sooke council last week.

“Your financial help would allow the Juan de Fuca Marine Rescue Society to continue to operate at the highest training level, and continued, uninterrupted coverage in the Juan de Fuca area and the coastline along Sooke,” Burchett said told council.

RCM-SAR is funded by a B.C. Gaming grant each year and last year received $67,000. The Canadian Coast Guard also kicks in $6,400.

But it’s still not enough.

The group is still more than $3,000 short on its operating budget, making ends meet for the organization’s 20 volunteers increasingly difficult. Ideally, the group needs $10,500 to run things smoothly, Burchett said.

The district heard the mayday call and responded with an immediate $2,000 in interim funding.

And now council wants to partner with Metchosin, Colwood and Langford to look at financially supporting RCM-SAR with annual funding.

Metchosin Mayor John Ranns suggested RCM-SAR could be tied closely with Metchosin Fire Department and emergency operations program rather than digging into municipal cash.

“They provide an essential service. We do want to help, but I know often times we can provide a far greater value, either through providing meeting space or professional expertise,” Ranns said.

Juan de Fuca Area director Mike Hicks said he’s grateful for the service, but his residents already pay $60,000 a year to the land-based search and rescue organization.

“We don’t have any more funds available, so this should be picked up by the remaining West Shore communities,” he said.

Sooke Mayor Maja Tait said a letter will be sent to Colwood, Langford and Metchosin councils to coordinate a unified effort to fund the organization. Sooke Coun. Kevin Pearson volunteered to work as a council liaison with RCM-SAR to follow through and help make the connection with other councils.

“Thank you for providing the service that you do. It’s that important thing that you hope you never need, but you’re really glad what you do,” Pearson said.

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Did you know

On average, RCM-SAR responds to at least 35 calls in this area with more than half of them in the Sooke Basin and Whiffin Spit area. Its coverage is Race Rocks in the east to Port Renfrew in the west.

Sooke News Mirror

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