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North Cowichan urged to act on derelict vessels

Maple Bay and Chemainus residents would prefer not to see this type of image taken in their harbours. - courtesy Lori Iannidinardo
Maple Bay and Chemainus residents would prefer not to see this type of image taken in their harbours.
— image credit: courtesy Lori Iannidinardo

The sinking of the Beaver into Cowichan Bay did not go unnoticed in Maple Bay and Chemainus.

The two communities joined forces earlier this month to make a plea to North Cowichan to prevent similar sinkings — and other problems related to derelict boats — from happening off their shores.

The Maple Bay Community Association and Chemainus Residents Association maintain the municipality has zoning authority that extends 1,000 feet from the shoreline.

During a presentation by Justin Fryer of the MBCA, the community groups indicated they want want council to use those powers to force vessels to adhere to community standards.

Prohibiting derelicts, requiring sewage hook-ups for live-aboards and enforcing the noise bylaw are just three areas they would like to see targeted.

“Oak Bay, Bowen Island and Victoria are all places that have recently seen fit to clean up their marine neighborhood in this way,” MBCA president Sheila Kitson said.

According to Kitson, Maple Bay has seen permanent moorings increase from 10 to 50 in the past decade, the bulk of the increase occurring in the past two years.

“There is now even greater concern for the protection of all waters along the local coastline,”  she said. “As more coastal communities remove offending vessels through by-law enforcement greater pressure is put on local sheltered bays and coves within North Cowichan as vessels seek a new refuge.”

While the Beaver — a large faux paddle-wheeler that sank this spring — is the most prominent recent example of what Kitson is talking about, it’s certainly not unique. A boat sank in Maple Bay this Christmas and a series of derelict barges were the focus of attention off Chemainus for years before sinking.

“Some vessels are in extremely poor condition even being towed in by another vessel, because they are incapable of moving under their own power,” Kitson writes. “They sit at the moorings until a storm breaks them loose and they then end up on shore or sink from neglect, posing a significant threat to the environment from fuel and other contaminants and toxic materials on board.

“Identifying the owner of a derelict or abandoned vessel is time consuming and not always possible. The financial cost to the municipality of removing or dismantling derelict and abandoned vessels can be exorbitant, as was found with the barges that sank in Chemainus.”

North Cowichan council directed staff to review the situation and file a report to council as soon as possible.

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