A Gorge-Tillicum community leader wonders why the municipality has been so slow to deal with an abandoned boat.
Dorothy Chambers, who has been involved in a number of causes in the area, said almost nine months have passed since Saanich bylaw has received multiple complaints about a boat off the shores of Curtis Point in the Gorge Waterway.
The boat’s continued presence threatens the local environment, she said, noting that water in its stern threatens to sink it. Her frustration rings through in a note that she sent to Saanich bylaw officers.
“Have a look at the stern of the boat, it’s now heavy with water,” she wrote. “Propane [barbecue] and gas generator on board. “Like the derelict boat at [Victoria Canoe and Kayak Club] last year, are you just waiting for it to sink, then write me an email about how there is nothing you can do?” she asked.
That boat sank in early November 2017 and critics like Chambers cite it as evidence of what she calls Saanich’s “dithering” approach towards abandoned boats. According to Chambers, the Coast Guard responded to Chambers’ call about the sinking within 20 minutes. Crews then floated and removed the boat within two hours.
“Saanich could have just called the Coast Guard, it was that easy,” Chambers said then. “Instead, they were dithering. Coast Guard should be recognized for their response. I just looked up the number [online].”
Megan Catalano, Saanich’s spokesperson, said the municipality is taking the challenges with derelict and abandoned boats seriously.
“However, it is important to note that our jurisdiction is limited — derelict boats are within the jurisdiction of the federal government,” she said.
As for the boat off Curtis Point, Saanich’s application to take possession of it through Transport Canada’s Abandoned Boats program failed, after an owner came forward. This means that authorities do not consider the boat abandoned.
“In terms of next steps, the District is working to achieve compliance with the zoning bylaw, which limits the length of time that a boat is able to moor in the Gorge Waterway,” she said.
Saanich bylaw limits the use of a float home or other floating vessel as a residence, and does not allow anchoring or moorage of any vessel for a continuous period exceeding 72 hours within 300 meters of a Saanich shore.
Legal counsel are pursuing a court order that would authorize removal of the vessel, she said.
“Saanich will continue to work as proactively as possible, with the interests of citizens in mind,” she said.