Crews work to remove an abandoned boat from the Gorge Waterway. (Photo courtesy of John Roe)

Greater Victoria crews work to remove abandoned boats

First Nations partnerships a priority

Rick Stiebel/News staff

Every wreck removed from local waterways puts another smile on John Roe’s face.

“The dead boats are a blight on our waterways,” said Roe, who launched the Dead Boat Disposal Society a year ago as part of the ongoing efforts of Veins of Life, a volunteer organization he helped found in 1995. “I think it’s been an important issue on the coast for a long time. Abandoned boats on the shore or in the water could be a real environmental issue. It’s actually fun getting rid of that crap.”

The work, although limited in scope by a lack of funds, began in earnest in 1995 when Roe and a group of volunteers founded the Veins of Life Watershed Society, which is dedicated to the cleanup and restoration of the Gorge Waterway, Victoria Harbour watershed and the Salish Sea.

RELATED: 17 abandoned boats around Salt Spring Island to be removed with federal funding

Roe is pleased the federal government has stepped up after the announcement in November 2016 of $6.8 million in funding to assess, remove and dispose of abandoned vessels as part of $1.5 million Oceans Protection Plan.

“It took two years to get to this point,” he noted. “We used to do the work with chainsaws, but we’re all getting older now. It’s nice to see younger hands and better equipment.”

Roe said he appreciates the efforts of Salish Sea Industrial Services and local First Nations in that regard. The Dead Boat Disposal Society is currently working with the Capital Regional District on removing boats in Sooke.

Salish Sea Industrial Services removed four boats from Victoria Harbour this summer. More recently, Salish Sea removed a 25-foot Bayliner that sank just north of the Selkirk Trestle on the Gorge Waterway.

It was an emergency situation that the company was able to respond to because they had the right equipment and a crew in the area, said project manager Rob Menzies.

RELATED: Transport Canada announces $17M for pollutant clean up in Victoria Park, removal of abandoned boats

The company is working on another proposal in conjunction with the Dead Boat Disposal Society as well.

The boats targeted have been abandoned by owners who just decided to walk away from them, which left the problem for the provincial and municipal governments to deal with, Menzies explained.

“It takes a serious effort and there’s significant cost. Boats abandoned on the beach or in the water could be an environmental disaster. There seemed to be a lot of finger pointing but it’s feasible now that the federal government has stepped up. Menzies also credits having sister companies within the Ralmax Group of Companies and subcontractors available to deal with environmental assessment and disposal for making the process much easier.

The ongoing efforts are a collaboration involving a partnership between Ralmax, a major landowner on Victoria’s Harbour, and the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations, who have always demonstrated a strong connection to their traditional territories, Menzies said. The Salish Sea Aboriginal Training Program currently provides applied learning, mentoring and apprenticeship opportunities for 23 members of the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations throughout the Ralmax Group.

Robert Thomas, director of Salish Sea for Esquimalt Nation, said the protection and health of the Salish Sea is of paramount importance. “These waters have sustained us with food and defined us as a people long before contact,” he said.

“We are proud of this work and it’s heartening to see all levels of government and community coming together with critical funding to support this initiative,” he noted.

Karen Tunkara, director of Salish Sea for Songhees Nation, said they are proud to be champions of the removal of abandoned vessels and the opportunity to earn a living on their traditional waters.

“We must all step forward to protect the health of these hardworking waters as they are essential to life itself,” she said, “Shared values unite us and we have the expertise through Salish Sea Industrial Services to play a leadership role.”


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Future space homes could be made of mushrooms

NASA explores use of fungi to build structures in space

All Carlton Cards stores closing in the coming weeks

Schurman Retail Group stores across North America will close, including 79 in Canada

Meet Arthur Heart, Oak Bay Avenue’s resident stickman

Contest winner dubs stickman Art Heart

Sidney cadet takes home gold at South Island Zone biathlon

‘Rising star’ sets her sights on provincials

VIDEO: Trudeau insists Iran respect families’ wishes when it comes to burials

All 176 people on board the Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 were killed

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Jan. 21

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

B.C.-based Coulson Aviation C-130 crashes in Australia

Three people are confirmed dead in the crash in New South Wales

New nasal spray launched in Canada to combat hypoglycemic shock in diabetics

Baqsimi is a nasal spray contains three milligrams of glucagon

B.C. RCMP spent roughly $750K on massive manhunt for Port Alberni men

Manitoba RCMP helped with 17-day search through the province’s northern terrain

Island Bakery in Cobble Hill to close

Cobble Hill store in business since 1982

Man killed by police in Lytton called 911, asking to be shot: RCMP

Howard Schantz, also known as Barry Schantz was killed following a standoff at his Lytton home

Canadian public health agencies ramping up preparations in response to new virus

Health officials have said there are no confirmed cases of the emerging coronavirus in Canada

Most Read