In the wake of the laborious and costly removal of the 40-tonne concrete hulled Pacific Sun King by Saanich staff, Coun. Judy Brownoff says now is the time to raise the alarm for federal program that deals with derelict and abandoned boats.
This winter alone, Saanich has already spent $50,000 to remove derelict and abandoned boats in the Gorge Waterway and Cadboro Bay Beach.
And that doesn’t include staff time, added Brownoff.
“With climate change we’re getting bigger winds for longer periods of time [causing more wash-ups],” Brownoff said at a Feb. 15 council meeting. “Colleagues, it’s time. We can’t afford this (derelict boats) anymore.”
It’s not the first time Brownoff has been down this road. In previous terms Brownoff was part of an attempt to bring the federal government on board.
In her most recent report, which council voted to move forward with, Brownoff outlined a plan to re-introduce the issue at the 2016 Convention of the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities. From there the goal is to advance the issue to the Union of British Columbia Municipalities and Federation of Canadian Municipalities.
Too many times Saanich taxpayers have been left on the hook for beached, or sinking vessels that are abandoned, she said.
Generally, it’s the cost of restoration that causes owners to walk away from the boat.
Though there was a catamaran removed from Curtis Point in the Gorge Waterway a few months ago, this year Cadboro Bay beach has been an area of focus for Saanich.
A particularly high number of wind storms forced many boats ashore. Some were immediately rescued by owners before they could incur damage. Others were left to rot, such as the 25-foot wooden boat that was responsible for spreading dozens of hypodermic needles along Cadboro Bay beach in November.
“Cadboro Bay is a place people want to moor because it’s free,” Brownoff said. “I talked to a tug boat operator who said the bottom of Caddy Bay can’t hold an anchor, and it gets big wind.”
Among the suggestions are an “end of life vessel disposal program” that is sustainable and protects the environment.
Brownoff wants to urge the federal and provincial governments to proceed with the recommendations from a 2012 Transport Canada Study that would establish an “Abandoned and Derelict Vessel Program” funded through fees that come from vessel purchases, registration, insurance and moorage.
Similar programs now exist in Washington and Oregon.
“Most boats are over 30 years old,” Brownoff said.
One problem is when owners pass failing boats on for little or no money to people who are living within certain means, and are unable to afford the rescue of the boat.
“If we could get boat owners to pay a flat fee (for a derelict boat program), they could get a (license) sticker,” Brownoff suggested. ”If the Coast Guard sees no sticker, it gives them a fine.”
A recent private member’s Bill C-219 was given first reading in the House of Commons. It would designate the Canadian Coast Guard as a receiver of wrecks, which is placing “assumed onus” on the Coast Guard, said Brownoff’s report.
The province does have a Product Stewardship Program that collects eco fees at the time of purchase for certain products, which could be a potentially transferrable model.