Maple Bay residents told North Cowichan council that the area’s bays and harbours could be threatened with pollution from an increasing number of live-aboard, derelict, and abandoned vessels and urged them to look for solutions before real problems arise. Councillors agreed to get staff members to review and report as soon as possible on the presentation, made earlier this month.
Justin Fryer, speaking on behalf of the Maple Bay Community Association, told councillors that worry is widespread.
He has talked to people in Chemainus, Crofton and Genoa Bay and discovered the concerns reach far beyond Maple Bay into those North Cowichan areas as well.
"The problem is the current laws are ineffective or not enforced," he said. Fryer pointed out that some live-aboards in Bird’s Eye Cove, an area where the water doesn’t flush itself well, are also a concern.
"Abandoned vessels are at the mercy of vandals. Some liveaboards stay in their mooring for months. We don’t know what they do with the sewage and/or grey water," he said, adding, "There are now nine live-aboards in the south end of Maple Bay. Who has authority?" he asked.
The Maple Bay group has been watching with interest as other municipalities have taken action to exercise greater control in their bays and harbours.
"The result is that boats are moving into unprotected areas such as North Cowichan," he said.
Trouble, such as that seen in Cowichan Bay, where a replica of the Beaver sank, and which was only the latest in a litany of problems for that picturesque area, means "the emphasis should be on prevention," he said.
Coun. Ruth Hartmann had heard these concerns before.
"Lori [Iannidinardo, the regional director for Area D] has been dealing with problems in Cowichan Bay and Cherry Point. There are lots of large boats coming there to escape the fees of staying in Vancouver," she said.
Mayor Jon Lefebure agreed.
"I would suggest this report go to staff for recommendations on what we should do," he said.
Coun. John Koury said that "boats built 40, 50, 60 years ago are coming to roost in hideaways on our coasts" and added that Nanaimo-Cowichan MP Jean Crowder has been very active in pursuing action to deal with the problem.
Coun. Kate Marsh said, "I don’t want to see another situation like those Chemainus barges [which sank]" but she also wondered aloud if part of the problem with live-aboards might come from people having difficulty finding affordable housing.
Coun. Jennifer Woike said she was concerned that derelict vessels sinking could mean leaching of chemicals into the water.
"We’ve just had the beach declared unsafe for swimming in Maple Bay," she said.
North Cowichan CAO Dave Devana said that, as part of a zoning bylaw review, there could be an opportunity to look at what power the municipality has within 1,000 feet of the shoreline.
Lefebure said it would be a good idea to see some kind of report "as soon as practically possible."
Fryer said he saw his group’s application to council as "a preemptive action" because although "we’re not yet at the critical stage of other municipalities, we’re a very attractive refuge and we’re exposed if we don’t act."