John Roe and the Dead Boats Society were back in Sooke on Thursday to remove five boats abandoned in the harbour.
“These are boats that were inventoried almost three years ago, and now we’re finally able to come and take them out,” Roe said.
The non-profit Dead Boats Society works in conjunction with the Capital Regional District, the federal government and a local partner, Salish Sea Industrial Services, to do the removals, but funding is always a problem.
Twenty-five per cent of the cost of removal is covered by the CRD with the remaining 75 per cent covered by the federal government. But federal funding is limited.
In July, the federal government announced $1.27 million would be provided to four organizations in B.C. to assist in the removal of 34 vessels.
But that amount doesn’t come close to dealing with all the abandoned boat in the region, Roe said.
And the recently passed Bill C-64, entitled the Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act, which came into effect in July, will have little impact as a source of funding for the removal of derelict boats, despite the best intentions of the federal government, Roe said.
“(The act) will enable us to better protect our coastlines by requiring responsible vessel management and prohibiting vessel abandonment,” said Transport Minister Marc Garneau at a March 6 press conference.
The plan, Garneau said, would hold the identified owners of abandoned boats responsible for the cleanup cost.
But there’s the rub.
Roe said it’s nearly impossible to identify the owners of abandoned boats since, unlike motor vehicles, owners are not required to register the craft with an easily identifiable serial number.
“I’ve removed about 250 boats since I started doing this in 1994 and of those I’m thinking we were able to identify four owners,” Roe said.
“I remember how one guy gave me $1,000 toward what was a $20,000 job. There was nothing we could do at the time.”
The process of removing boats has become more complicated and expensive as well.
That complexity was highlighted by Ryan Bosley of Soliton Diving, who was on hand in Cooper’s Cove preparing one sailboat for removal.
“We have to send divers down to check it out before we attach floats so we can get it up and be able to load it on a barge. It’s quite a job.”
Roe recalled how in the 1990s it was just a matter of getting the boats ashore on a tarp and cutting them up with saws and chainsaws.
“Now we barge them over to the Point Hope Shipyard where they have to be divided into industrial and hazardous waste as well as simple garbage for disposal,” he said.
“You wouldn’t believe the things we find in these boats, and it can’t just go in a landfill.”
With the removal of the five boats this week, Roe said that he doesn’t anticipate being back in the Sooke area again until November.
“It’s really a matter of hurry up and wait now, as we wait for more funding,” Roe said.
“There are still a lot of boats out there that have to be taken out. We won’t run out of projects, that’s certain.”