A derelict logging float camp partially submerged in Zeballos Inlet poses a serious environmental and navigation hazard, but little is being done to remove it, says a Comox logger who has been trying to find someone to take responsibility for the mess.
Bill Pomponio, a logging equipment operator and avid ocean angler, says: “I have been trying for months to find someone prepared to get this sunken barge out of the inlet.
“The only folks who seem to give a damn are the Ehattesaht First Nations residents at Zeballos and the village Mayor Donn Cox and his council.”
Pomponio has photographed the wreckage of the 30-man camp and he has spotted deadhead debris. A 30 cm wide beam, suspended just below the surface of the inlet, almost sank his fishing boat.
“This beached wreck is slowly destroying the environmental integrity and beauty of the inlet. And, it has to be having a seriously negative impact on fishing tourism. I have called officials at the Ministry of Forests and I have sent pictures and a memo to my local MLA, Don McRae (Comox Valley), but nothing seems to work.”
Before it sank last September the floating camp was tied up near a booming ground. It broke loose, drifted around the inlet and came to rest on the shoreline near Zeballos Resolution Park.
Transport Canada Regional Communications Advisor Jillian Glover says: “Transport Canada hired a tug boat to secure the vessel when it initially ran adrift. At this time, the vessel is not an obstruction to navigation and the fuel tanks have been removed by the Canadian Coast Guard. As a result, Transport Canada will not be taking further action.”
The Coast Guard also put a boom around the barge. However, Pomponio says the boom has degenerated and large debris is escaping into the inlet.
The Ehattesaht First Nation was worried about the barge as far back as 2011 because it had a hole in it. An insolvency receiver acting for the former owners of the barge even attempted to sell the vessel to the Ehattesaht for $10.
The current ownership of the barge remains something of a mystery. The Ministry of Forests claimed in a March memo to Ehattesaht Chief Rose-ann Michael that the barge is registered to a Vancouver Island doctor.
The ministry’s District Resources Manager Romona Blackwell also stated: “Until the issue of the abandoned vessel is resolved under federal legislation the province has no jurisdiction or authority in the matter.”
Chief Michael said: “It’s very frustrating for the (Zeballos) communities that no individual or government agency has taken action on this matter.”
Glover says: “If there is a threat of pollution from the vessel, the Canadian Coast Guard would take the lead in dealing with the pollution threat or spill. Once the pollution aspect is dealt with, Transport Canada would investigate whether or not the vessel is an obstruction to navigation.
“Transport Canada’s position is that the vessel owner remains solely responsible for the disposal and storage of his or her vessel,” the Transport Canada spokesperson added.