Derelict boats, like the Florence Filberg that burned in the Sooke Basin in 2010, have been a concern of municipalities for years. (Sooke News Mirror file)

Feds urged to streamline abandoned boat regulations

A “convoluted process of red tape,” says Sooke Coun. Rick Kasper

A “convoluted process of red tape” is hampering local efforts to deal with wrecks and derelict vessels, says Sooke Coun. Rick Kasper.

Kasper, speaking at a Capital Regional District special committee of the whole meeting with Terry Beech, parliamentary secretary to Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc, said there’s concern among all coastal municipalities with federal regulatory red tape.

A vessel must be abandoned for two years before it is declared a derelict vessel, according to federal regulations, and often takes even longer to remove.

Ten years ago, the owners of a tugboat, the Florence Filberg, moored the vessel in Sooke Harbour and abandoned. It eventually broke loose from its moorings, wedging on a sandbar.

The Coast Guard checked it and determined since the boat had been cleaned up, there was no environmental hazard. Transport Canada said because it was on a sandbar, then there was no additional navigation hazard.

The boat sat there for four years in the middle of the harbour before a fire destroyed it. It was finally removed in 2011 at a cost of more than $100,000 to the municipality.

“Nothing has changed in 10 years as far as the bureaucracy is concerned,” Kasper said. “It takes so long and some of the environmental damage could already be done in the two-year time frame.”

CRD Juan de Fuca Electoral Area director Mike Hicks believes dealing with derelict vessels is a federal government responsibility. “It’s absolutely their problem,” he said.

The federal government requires all vessels to be registered, but little is done to police or monitor it, Kasper said, noting many people who buy a boat in a private deal often don’t know where to register the vessel.

“It’s a huge cumbersome process,” he said.

Kasper suggested more power should be given to local government, who are “front and centre in the community.”

Beech, Liberal MP for Burnaby North-Seymour, told directors his objective for the meeting was to listen.

He also pointed to a new federal Abandoned Boats Program that makes $5.6 million available over five years to support assessment, removal and disposal of high-priority abandoned and wrecked boats.

Under the program, the federal government will pay 100 per cent of the costs for boat-assessment projects and up to 75 per cent for boat removal and disposal projects.

So far this year, seven derelict vessels were reported in the Sooke Basin, including one in East Sooke at Anderson Cove.

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