ROBERT BARRON CITIZEN
Another two derelict vessels sank in Cowichan Bay after a rain and wind storm on March 9.
It’s just the latest in a series of incidents involving abandoned boats in the bay.
In fact, Cowichan Bay has had a history in recent years of people parking derelict vessels of all sizes there, but concerned local politicians and residents have so far had little success in dealing with the situation.
The bay is not the only area on Vancouver Island facing this issue, and the District of Saanich recently passed a motion seeking support from other municipalities to create a common fund to deal with derelict and abandoned vessels that contaminate coastal areas.
As well, Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP Sheila Malcolmson introduced Bill C-219 in the House of Commons last month that would see the responsibility, and costs, of removing the vessels given to the Canadian Coast Guard.
The bill, which was given its first reading on Feb. 4, would compel the government to create new regulations.
These regulations would be for the removal, disposition or destruction of abandoned vessels or wrecks.
Lori Iannidinardo, the director for Cowichan Bay for the Cowichan Valley Regional District, has been trying to deal with the problem for some time.
During the last few years, she said, several derelict vessels that were tied to the CVRD’s public dock have sunk, leaving local taxpayers with the responsibility of paying for their removal.
“It’s certainly an ongoing problem in Cowichan Bay,” Iannidinardo said.
“A lot of people buy cheap boats at auctions and figure they will get to them later to fix them up, so they anchor them up in the bay, which they have a right to do as the bay is in federal jurisdiction, and then abandon them.”
Iannidinardo said she appreciates the efforts of Saanich to have a fund created to which municipalities on the Island would contribute and could draw on when dealing with abandoned vessels in their waters.
But she said she doesn’t want to see local taxpayers having to bear the financial brunt of their removal.
Iannidinardo said the State of Washington has a model for dealing with these vessels in its jurisdiction that is currently being studied by Ottawa.
“The legislation in place there allows the state to put leans on boaters’ licences and registrations, among other strategies, whose boats have had to be dealt with to cover the costs,” she said.
“I think people have to be held accountable and this approach makes sense to me. We need some teeth in legislation to ensure that these are the people getting billed.”