What organizers called a “last minute” funding change scaled back efforts to remove 14 derelict boats from the Oak Bay side of Cadboro Bay Saturday morning.
Some 40 volunteers representing a broad coalition of local groups including the Cadboro Bay Residents Association spent Saturday cleaning out and cutting apart abandoned boats of various sizes. But as volunteers of all ages collected garbage in and around the boats and filled their oil tanks to prevents spills, they did so knowing that they would have to return at some unknown late date to get the boats actually off the beach.
As volunteers put on their yellow safety vests and prepared their equipment Saturday morning underneath a grey but clam sky, Eric Dahli, president of the Cadboro Bay Residents Association, told them that the Capital Regional District (CRD) had reneged on their promise to contribute $14,000 towards the project.
The coalition — which includes the District of Saanich, Veins of Life Watershed Society, Oak Bay Residents Association and the Royal Victoria Yacht Club — instead received $4,000 towards the clean up. “We orginally were told that we were going to get enough money to do it all in one day,” said Dahli in a later interview. “The CRD at the last minute (Wednesday) reneged and just gave us a small portion of the funding,” he said.
So what the rational the CRD give for the last minute change? “We got no rationale,” said Dahli. “They don’t have any money.” Had the coalition received this information earlier, it could have gone looking for alternative funding, he said. “But unfortunately the CRD gave us the bad news very late in the game,” he said.
The CRD’s decision scrambled a fairly detailed plan for the boats’ removal.
“C-Tow was going to haul them off the beach, take them over to the [Victoria] Yacht Club, the yacht club was on stand-by to lift them out of the water, put them on trailers and Ralmax [Contracting] would take them away,” said Dahli, adding that it not clear when the second stage of the clean up will take place.
This reality means for now that the boats will remain visible for Saanich residents living on the other side the Cadboro Beach. “Sadly, there are not an eye sore for the people of Oak Bay, because they can’t see them when they drive by on Beach Drive,” he said. “But to all the residents of Cadboro Bay and Ten Mile Point, we see them every day.”
Aside from aesthetics, the boats also pose a danger for people and the environment. “Kids play in them, they are unsafe,” said Dahli. “If there is a fire, nothing burns better than fibre-glass.” Some of the boats could also contain harmful fluids that could spill into the environment, he said. A group
The fact that Saturday’s clean-up did not proceed as planned also means that the issue has not yet lost its political topicality.
While Saanich has removed washed-up, abandoned and derelict boats from its portion of Cadboro Bay as funding from senior spheres of government has become available, Dahli questioned why Oak Bay has not taken similar measures to clean up its side.
“Oak Bay, for reasons, best known to Oak Bay, did not follow the same,” he said. “So we said, ‘to hell with it, we will do it ourselves.’”
Oak Mayor Nils Jensen has said in the past that the municipality’s jurisdiction ends above the tide line, meaning that the provincial government bears responsibility for removing the boats.
It appears that it is exactly whom Dahli’s coalition will be asking for additional funding, an agenda that received an unexpected boost Tuesday when the 2017 provincial election returned local MLA Andrew Weaver to the legislature as head of a three-member Green caucus currently holding the balance of power.
“Two days ago, he was a one-trick pony,” Dahli told volunteers. “Today, he is the ring master. So hopefully, he will have more clout.”
All this said, Dahli said he was very pleased with the turnout of volunteers. “We are happy that we can get the first step done, which is clean the boats out, make them safer as an interim until we can get more funding.”
A spokesperson for the CRD confirmed that Veins of Life Watershed Society received $4,000 and promised additional information next week.