Third derelict barge sinks off Chemainus Tuesday.

Just one of five derelict barges remains off Chemainus after a third sunk Tuesday. Another was towed by the feds to Ladysmith
Just one of five derelict barges remains off Chemainus after a third sunk Tuesday. Another was towed by the feds to Ladysmith's Slag Point while Ottawa talks about derelict-boat laws.
— image credit: Peter W. Rusland file

Four down, one barge to go.

North Cowichan Mayor Jon Lefebure says one barge, in deep water near Chemainus harbour, is still afloat after a third barge sunk Tuesday.

It joined two others on the bottom.

Lefebure reckoned the sole barge left will probably sink once filled with rainwater.

"We're not hopeful it'll survive any type of rain because it's open on the top. It'll likely sink."

Those three sunken barges aren't navigational or environmental hazards, and could become dive reefs.

None of the five original barges contain any fuel or oil. Creosote on the structures' wood is old enough that it's not an eco-risk, the mayor added.

Another of the five Second World War-era barges was towed, by the federal Department of Transport, to Ladysmith's Slag Point.

Initially, North Cowichan council asked DOT to get Environment Canada's OK to tow the barges to deeper water, away from the harbour area.

Council's request tanked.

"That was one federal department dealing with another and Transport couldn't get approval, so they're sinking in much shallower waters, which is a mistake," said Lefebure of the sunken barges sitting about 35 feet under, at low tide.

Still, council's happy with action taken by B.C.'s environment ministry to soften impact of the barges left derelict after the Chemainus Quay and Marina project foundered several years ago.

"The ministry's been really helpful. They moved barges in their provincial water lease so they were deep enough not to be harmful."

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