Waters around Victoria will soon be safer thanks to the upcoming construction of a new, permanent Canadian Coast Guard search and rescue (SAR) station at the base on Dallas Road.
Minister of transport Marc Garneau was in James Bay on Wednesday afternoon to break ground on the project alongside members of the Coast Guard’s rescue team.
“This search and rescue station will be staffed with highly-trained crews, available to respond to all maritime incidents in the Victoria harbour and the Eastern and Central parts of the Juan de Fuca Strait,” Garneau said.
The Canadian Coast Guard opened a search and rescue station in Victoria last summer, but the operation has been run out of a temporary location. The new, permanent station will include office and meeting spaces as well as living quarters.
The investment also brings with it about 200 new jobs – 80 of which have already been filled.
With Victoria’s Coast Guard base a focal point for Western Canada, Clay Evans, Superintendent of Maritime Search and Rescue for the Canadian Coast Guard, says people might be surprised to learn the base only recently acquired its own search and rescue resources.
“I think there has been an assumption for decades that this Coast Guard base…had some kind of dedicated search and rescue capabilities,” Evans said. “Well it never really did.”
For over three decades, Greater Victoria mariners have relied heavily on the volunteers of the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue (RCMSAR), which continues to operate out of bases in Sidney, Oak Bay, Victoria and Sooke, and has responded to thousands of SAR incidents over the last ten years.
The new, dedicated SAR team at the Canadian Coast Guard will continue partnering with RCMSAR, the Royal Canadian Navy and local first responders to keep the region’s waters safe.
Evans said a number of SAR needs analyses dating back to 1992, found the region was in need of a 24/7 dedicated search and rescue team because of the tidal currents and rough seas in the region.
But it took over two decades to obtain.
“Of course with the Oceans Protection Plan, obviously the Coast Guard is getting an infusion of cash for the first time in 30 years,” he said.
Less than a year ago the team acquired its first SAR boat, a 47-foot motor vessel lifeboat equipped with inflatable life rafts and rescue tools. The team expects the station to take on about 120 to 130 calls a year in the region.