The $5.6 million allotted to the removal of derelict boats in the Sooke Basin is a good start, but much more will be needed if the problem of abandoned boats is to be properly addressed, says John Roe of the Dead Boats Disposal Society.
Roe is one of the founding members of the non-profit group and one of the driving forces clearing the waterways along B.C.’s bays and inlets of derelict boats, abandoned fishing nets, and assorted trash and contaminants.
“The CRD and Transport Canada report identified seven boats in the Sooke Basin and harbour, but I can tell you that there are at least another six boats in Coopers Cove and at least that number in Anderson Inlet,” Roe said.
“We will be doing the survey work to identify all of the wrecks that we can find, several of which are already on the bottom. And that doesn’t start to address all the other garbage down there.”
The Federal Abandoned Boat Program Funding grant will be spread over five years and will cover 75 per cent of the removal and disposal costs for derelict boats.
The Capital Regional District has committed to cover the remaining 25 per cent through its sustainability reserve, and tipping fees for disposal of what comes out of the water will most likely also be covered by CRD funding as well.
“The disposal costs can be quite high,” explained Roe.
“It’s not just the boats that we are dealing with but the tons of garbage that tend to be in those boats. We’ve found everything … computers, sewing machines, bicycles, half-full paint cans and car engines … if you can imagine it, we’ve found it.
“We then have to separate what we’ve taken out of the water and send the hazardous waste like lead, asbestos, mercury and more to Alberta where it is incinerated at a special facility.”
One of the problems associated with cleaning up abandoned boats in the past has been that there was no easy way of identifying the owners of the wrecks or holding them accountable for disposal costs.
“We now have Bill C64 that will assign a registry number to every boat, but that is going to take five years to get into place and it won’t help with the ones that are already there,” Roe said.
He has issued an appeal to owners of boats who are planning to abandon them to contact the Dead Boats Disposal Society through its Facebook page and simply surrender the boat rather than have it demolished by storms and sink.
“It’s a lot cheaper and easier to get them out of the water while they’re floating. I’ve got a very easy method – all they have to do is sign a piece of paper assigning the boat to us and we can get it out of there,” Roe said.
Roe’s group has applied for funding under the program and will start the removal process in late April when the daytime low tides make the work easier.
Meanwhile, the District of Sooke’s Council received an administrative report on March 11 that raised even more concerns.
The report cited the issue of derelict boats that continue to be occupied by people living aboard, illegal overnight moorage at the municipally owned dock near the Prestige Hotel, and that some boats are being towed into the harbour with the intention of dumping them there.
“It’s an issue that was presented to council and received as information, but it’s on our radar and we’ll be continuing to work on the problems,” said Don Schaffer, Sooke’s interim chief administrative officer.
“This is not a problem that is going to go away any time soon. I would guess it would take 10 to 15 years to clean up the coastline of all the boats and garbage, and that’s if we can stop people from adding more wrecks to the problem,” Roe said.
He added that his organization is always looking for more volunteers to help clean up the waters in Sooke and beyond.