Sinking derelict raising ire of Cowichan Bay residents

Another derelict boat, this one leaking oil, has become a problem in Cowichan Bay.

The area has had a history in recent years of people parking derelict vessels of all sizes there but concerned local politicians and residents have so far had little success in dealing with the situation.

According to Brian Thacker of Pacific Industrial Marine, located at the Bay, derelicts have been a real problem lately with the wind storms but that is coming to a head.

"There’s one there that we saw sinking yesterday and it is leaking so I phoned all the emergency numbers and as usual nobody wanted to do much then. But, having said that, the Coast Guard is there right now. They just phoned me. His boss is in a meeting so he is waiting to find out what to do."

Thacker and his crew, however, have been busy.

"Well our office is down in the Bay here and I’ve been ranting to [Cowichan Bay Area Director] Lori Iannidinardo because in the last month or so we’ve had crews go out and rescue three different boats that have broken loose and floated in here," Thacker related.

"We pull them out and tie them up to the government dock. They may not like that but we’ve got to put them somewhere," he said.

But now, there’s more of a problem.

"In this case, it’s half sunk. I told everybody, ‘We have a crane and a barge. We could lift this thing out of the water.’ But nobody’s making decisions about that," Thacker said.

The boat’s owner is nowhere in sight.

"That is the problem with the derelict boats down here and what I was saying to Lori was that it’s time the Cowichan Valley Regional District take charge of their own waters since the feds and the provincial people don’t seem to do anything."

He pointed to other examples of

success.

"Squamish cleaned up all their derelict boats, Sooke cleaned up boats. The Inner Harbour in Victoria and the Gorge, they’re dealing with it. But we’re not." He wasn’t sure why the vessels were all arriving in Cowichan Bay.

"Most of these boats are a case of people getting wide-eyed. Maybe they’re given them and think they’ll fix them up or whatever. But then they just become a liability and it’s not getting dealt with," Thacker said.

Meanwhile, an equally frustrated Iannindardo has been watching the boats as well.

"We have had quite a few [derelicts]. In the last windstorm I know the residents pulled one up themselves; it was tied to the CVRD dock.

"But now there’s one that’s actually leaking oil; it’s just off of the Western stevedoring terminal. It’s very frustrating to [Thacker]. He’s paying his employees to put a boom around it and nobody will come and get it. And this one’s losing oil.

"It looked like there was a bubble in it because it was staying afloat. He took some pictures because I said we need pictures. We need to show what’s going on. We can’t keep up to this," she said. Iannidinardo said she understood Thacker’s frustration with one additional aspect of the situation, too.

"He told me, ‘With all you environmental groups it’s eel grass, it’s the foreshore, it’s breaching the dike. But where is everyone when it comes to all these boats I keep collecting?’ It’s another example of not being able to keep up with all this environmental mess," she said.

Part of the problem is that not all the vessels are as big or as noticeable as the derelict SS Beaver that sank not long ago at Cowichan Bay.

"There are a lot of people who just moor their derelict boats [and they are not] necessarily just great big ones. The SS Beaver was a larger one. It was heading for the Cowichan River and Brian Thacker’s people actually tied it up to the Dolphin there.

"He’s going, how much do I have to do on my dime with my employees?

Aren’t there supposed to be people out there to do this? His other point was why didn’t the CVRD take it over but that’s a whole other ball game. And he’s also wondering how Sooke and other places did get their derelicts cleaned up and we haven’t managed. He can sit and see it out of his office window. It’s an expense to his company. He had a lot of good points," she said. There was no reply to calls and emails to the Coast Guard by press time.

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