Songhees teaming up with other nations to remove derelict boats

The Songhees First Nation is spearheading a drive to take more derelict boats out of the water while providing jobs and training for other nations on the South Island.

About 100 abandoned and sunken vessels are expected to be removed over the next nine months through the Salish Sea Marine Stewardship Project.

The province has provided $2 million through its Clean Coast, Clean Water Initiative to fund the project, led by the Songhees Development Corporation, Salish Sea Industrial Services and the Dead Boats Disposal Society.

Salish Sea Industrial Services is a marine construction business jointly owned by the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations in partnership with the Ralmax Group.

It operates a 145-foot barge and 150-tonne crawler crane that lifts boats out of the water and hauls them to home base at Point Hope Maritime on the Upper Harbour, where they are broken down in a containment area. Stainless steel pieces, batteries, hull windows, engines, wood, plastics and hydrocarbons are recycled, and the rest — the bulk of it fibreglass — is hauled to the landfill.

The Dead Boats Disposal Society, headed by John Roe, another partner in the stewardship plan, has helped Salish Sea Industrial Services and its barge crews, divers and sub-contractors to identify and remove more than 145 dead boats over the past three years from the Greater Victoria area and Gulf Islands.

Christina Clarke, corporate executive officer of the Songhees Development Corp., said the project will include South Island First Nations in whose territories it operates, and will offer jobs and training opportunities as well as hiring local mariners to support the identification and removal of derelict vessels.

“We are bringing forward proven partnerships and expertise, and inviting fellow nations to join us and build trust around common goals,” said Clarke. “Working together on sharing job and training opportunities, we will contribute to advancing a skilled Indigenous workforce ready to compete and prosper in the rapidly growing marine economy.”

Beecher Bay First Nation is the first to sign on.

Chief Russell Chipps supports the project, saying it aligns with his community’s “social and economic goals for marine industry and marine conservation.”

He is also keen to utilize eight divers from several First Nations on the South Island who have recently been certified for ocean monitoring at the new spill response centre at Beecher Bay marina, which will open this summer. Members ofthe Songhees, Esquimalt, Malahat, Sooke and Beecher Bay nationas all took part in the diver training.

“We want to be the ambulance for the sea here,” Chipps said in an interview. “We’re caring for the ocean here. You can’t just sit around. Some of us have to do the work, and we want to be the warriors who do the work.”

“We look forward to working with the Songhees on this project to develop specialized skills that will strengthen our Nation’s marine economy while advancing our conservation efforts on our shores and in our waters,” said Chipps.

In February, the federal government provided a fresh round of financing through its Ocean Protection Plan to remove 24 abandoned, beached and sunken vessels, including 10 at Cadboro Bay and others around Gabriola, Saltspring and Pender islands.

Almost all of the vessels removed have been pleasure craft.

Times Colonist: $6.85m Boost from Ottawa fro Removal of Derelict Boats

Transport Minister Marc Garneau, left, and Salish Seas Project manager Rob Menzies tour Point Hope Maritine, with the Inner Harbour behind them.ADRIAN LAM

The federal government is taking aim at derelict vessels with $6.85 million from its Abandoned Boat Program, including $412,475 for B.C.

Indigenous-owned Salish Sea Industrial Services will receive $404,350 through the program to remove 17 boats in the Salt Spring Island area, while Esquimalt is getting $5,625 for the removal of one boat and $2,500 for assessment of another.

“Abandoned and wrecked boats pollute the marine environment and negatively affect tourism, fisheries, local infrastructure and navigation,” Minister of Transport Marc Garneau said Friday at Point Hope Maritime. “They are a source of frustration for many shoreline communities.”

Garneau said Salish Sea Industrial Services recently removed four boats from Victoria’s harbour with co-operation from the federal program. He said most people dispose of their boats properly, “but there are unfortunate exceptions.”

“Some vessel owners see abandonment as a low-cost, low-risk option,” he said.

“This has to stop.”

Garneau said the federal government has also responded with the proposed Bill C-64, the Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act.

“The [act] will make abandoning a vessel illegal,” he said.

“It will reduce the financial burden on taxpayers, who have borne many of the removal and disposal costs associated with problem vessels.

“This legislation will protect the environment and shoreline communities right here in Victoria.”

John Roe, who has been involved in cleaning up the Gorge waterway environment for years, praised the steps taken related to abandoned boats.

“It’s fabulous, working with the Capital Regional District, Salish Sea Industrial Services, Ralmax, Islands Trust, First Nations,” he said, adding that a “phenomenal” amount of garbage, as well as boats, has been collected recently from local areas.

“I think it’s important for everybody,” said Rob Menzies, Salish Sea’s project manager. “It’s important for the environment, for the people that live in coastal communities. These things are abandoned on the beach and left there forever. It’s important to clean it up.”

Garneau also announced $2.5 million for four coastal communities in B.C. to develop a new “maritime awareness information system.” That funding will go to the Haida and Gitga’at First Nations, and to a shared effort by the T’Sou-ke and Pacheedaht First Nations.

They will carry out a one-year pilot project, scheduled to start in the spring of 2019. Similar initiatives are being launched in other Canadian centres. “It will provide essential, local maritime information to communities so that they can know what is happening in their local waters, including shipping traffic,” Garneau said.

He likened it to air-traffic control on the water.

“This funding will provide local communities with resources to develop infrastructure, internet and equipment to test this new system,” he said.

Gitga’at Chief Arnold Clifton said he was looking forward to working with the federal government “to make waterways a safer place to travel.”

“This project gives us the opportunity to share our traditional knowledge and experience in our territories, and allows us to provide input into the design of a new system to track ships.”

Garneau further revealed that a $9.5-million contract for an underwater listening station, using hydrophones, will be awarded soon to a Canadian company. It will be set up at Boundary Pass between the Gulf Islands and San Juan Islands — a key habitat for southern resident orcas.

The hydrophones will detect and measure such things as vessel noise.

“It will improve our ability to address and develop measures to reduce underwater noise and support efforts to protect and recover the southern resident killer whale.”

Times Colonist: Eight sunken boats lifted from area around Oak Bay Marina

Five sunken boats and big pieces of three others were pulled from the depths around Oak Bay Marina over the weekend — drawing cheers from crowds on the docks and shore as some of the wreckage emerged.

Divers and crews aboard two barges with cranes worked for three days to remove all of the sunken vessels in the large bay, according to the Dead Boats Society. An underwater survey by Oak Bay Marina had identified the wrecks.

Dead Boats Society spokesman Wesley Roe said it was a difficult job, because divers had to place lifting straps under the vessels, many of which were submerged in deep sediment, to securely remove them.

The salvaged vessels included 45- and 50-foot sailboats, including one that had burned a decade ago, a pair of 24-footers and a power boat.

The wreckage was loaded onto barges operated by Salish Sea Industrial Services, a partnership of the Songhees First Nation and Ralmax Group of Companies, and taken to Ralmax’s Point Hope Maritime yard, where it will be dismantled for any salvageable goods and the hulls will be tested for composition and proper disposal.

The same companies picked 10 boats out of the water last winter at nearby Cadboro Bay, some underwater and others partially submerged or on shore.

Roe said sunken and leaking boats can cause significant damage to the environment and sea life, adding incentives are needed to encourage owners with declining boats to pull them out “before we have to pick them out of the water.”

The Songhees Nation has contracts with the provincial government to remove up to 100 derelict boats. Victoria-based Dead Boats Society identifies the vessels under federal contracts, and governments disperse funding to companies like Salish Sea Industrial to remove them.

Roe said crews are heading up to the Comox area next to remove derelict boats, but the arrival in early November depends on tides and weather, as well as the location and condition of the vessels identified.

The companies may also scoop some vessels at Cowichan Bay.

John Roe, Veins of Life Watershed: Client Spotlight

Working with staff and students from the ELC has benefited me immensely. I have enjoyed, the professionalism, the ability of understanding a concept, research skills, questions and explanation of how laws apply to our projects, reports, presentations to councils and public. These three projects will leave a legacy of conservation in our community, looking forward to continue on and more into the future.

John Roe

John Roe is a founder of Veins of Life Watershed Society (VOLWS), a community environmental organization focusing on habitat restoration projects, pollution prevention, and garbage removal initiatives along the shorelines and streams in our local watershed.

John Roe

Through a number of community projects, VOLWS was responsible under John’s leadership for vastly improving the water quality of Victoria’s Gorge Waterway.

Since 2008, the ELC has worked with John Roe and VOLWS on several projects. The first project was prompted by John’s concerns over the management of storm sewers and urban run-off in the Capital Regional District. That resulted in Re-inventing Rainwater Management: Protecting Health and Restoring Nature in the Capital Region, which involved multiple presentations to local councils, and a community seminar in 2010 that was attended by First Nations, local Councillors and community leaders. In 2016, the City of Victoria took some direction from the storm water report and adopted a Storm Water Utility.

During this time, John also worked with the ELC on a submission for the Water Act Modernization Process that examined the concept of forming a Conservation Authority for the Gorge Waterway / Victoria Harbour Watershed, which would include six municipalities and four First Nation communities.

Most recently, VOLWS reached out to the ELC about concerns over protecting public green spaces.

“Protecting public green spaces is a project that is dear to my heart,” says John. “We in the Conservation community have observed for a long time the encroachment and restriction of public spaces by private entities. The economy has changed and homes on waterfront are in demand. Through onsite research, defining the regulatory laws / bylaws and a presentation to Saanich Municipality, ELC students have guided the community and progress is being made to resolve these issues and return these public spaces back to the public.”

In response to the ELC’s submission, local governments are addressing the need to restore access to public waterfont lands that have been appropriated for private use by adjacent neighbours.  The Clinic is advocating a comprehensive Greenways Strategy to link the public accesses.

Link to original article:

Derelict, abandoned boats cleared from Cadboro Bay beach

It took years of pestering governments and a dozen volunteers with shovels — and a blowtorch, an excavator and massive steel bins — to rid Cadboro Bay beach of derelict boats on Saturday. 

“We’ve been battling at this for a long time,” said Eric Dahli, chairman of the Cadboro Bay Residents Association.

“This is a great day to finally see this happen.”

Six derelict boats were removed from the beach, ranging from small fiberglass and plastic vessels to large rusting steel boats that had to be broken down or dragged off. All were about 20 to 30 feet in length, and some had been there for years.

Dahli said the recent push to get the boats off the beach near Gyro Park started last year, when two boats came ashore leaking diesel and full of garbage. One had a hypodermic needle in it.

“Saanich ponied up and gave up some funds to get rid of them, so we looked down the beach on the Oak Bay side and wanted to do more,” Dahli said. A spring cleanup yielded nearly five tonnes of garbage.

“These boats are dangerous here, especially for kids who want to play pirate,” he said. “I don’t want my grandson playing in them.”

Dahli said his group partnered with John Roe from the Veins of Life Watershed Society to form the Dead Boat Society and lobby for funds to remove the boats.

The vessels fall under federal jurisdiction, but it was the province that agreed, in this case, to contribute $12,000 for the clean up. Oak Bay pitched in with $4,000 and in-kind services.

“The problem is this has been very confusing with who has jurisdiction and responsibility,” said Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen, who dropped by the cleanup on Saturday morning. “But it’s great for the environment and community to get this done.”

Abandoned and unsafe vessels and wrecks are under overlapping federal, provincial and municipal jurisdictions, depending on the tide lines.

Roe, a veteran of derelict boat cleanups around the region, said he reached out to offer his help and expertise.

“This is the fifth beach I’ve done and what I find everywhere is that we have more urbanization with no plan to address these kinds of issues or maintenance to keep our ecosystems healthy,” he said.

“The amount of plastics in some of these boats is the same as about 600,000 shopping bags.”

Roe said the boats have all been stripped and abandoned and there is currently no system to track or penalize the owners. The ones removed from the beach will be recycled or taken to the landfill.

Derelict boats are an issue in every coastal community, he said. Roe said he is creating an inventory of derelict boats around the Island and estimates there are about 500 in all.

The City of Victoria is expected to be in court this month to seek a court order to remove 16 boats and four docks from the Gorge waterway. It claims the boats and docks are in violation of a bylaw.

Dahli said the next project in Cadboro Bay will be to get rid of the derelict boats floating in the water.

He pointed out three decrepit runabouts just offshore that he said were tied to buoys by the coast guard.

He said the vessels are just a storm away from ending up as more garbage on the beach.

Les Leyne: Gorge waterway suffers from too many authorities

John Roe and his son, Wesley, 10, with some of the junk they hauled out of the Gorge waterway in 1995. The Roes' efforts inspired others to help, and by 2000, the Gorge was clean enough to swim in for the first time in generations. But problems persist in the waterway, and they're difficult to solve because of a confusing patchwork of overlapping jurisdictions.

Two different stories have played out on the Gorge waterway over the past 20 years and the contrast between them couldn’t be more striking.

The first one is about John Roe, a nearby resident who rowed out one day with his young son in 1995 and started hauling garbage out of water. For previous generations, the Gorge was the go-to place for aquatic fun. But neglect and pollution over the years had gradually erased that concept from the city’s memory. It was nice to look at it, but few people actually used it.

Some scuba divers and a dozen volunteers showed up the week after Roe’s first foray to continue the effort. Nine months later, they had extracted a 32-tonne pile of garbage from the Gorge. Other groups pitched in, the scope was broadened and it took hold. After five years of dirty, unpaid labor, the story culminated in August 2000.

The Gorge Swim Festival was held, the first time since the 1930s that anyone dared to officially invite people to swim there. I can still remember being startled at the advertisement for the inaugural event. Swimming in the Gorge? Really?

The point of this brief history is that it all happened because a single individual decided to do something.

The other story is less inspiring. It’s about the derelict liveaboard boats that have cluttered the waterway off and on for about the same period of time. That’s not the kind of thing a citizen can tackle on their own. It’s a governmental responsibility. And various governments have spent years dithering, passing the buck and focusing single-mindedly on avoiding doing much of anything about the problem.

That might start changing this weekend on at least one part of the Gorge, when the City of Victoria’s latest deadline expires and the boats might — or might not — be subject to removal. If it finally happens, it will have been a long time coming.

There’s a remarkable achievement gap between one guy who had a good idea and decided to execute it, and the combined authorities of the federal, provincial, municipal and regional governments.

All that authority is precisely the reason for the gap. The Gorge is just as choked with overlapping authorities as it used to be with garbage. The federal government has nominal authority over the water. The province regulates the seabed. The municipalities rule the foreshore. Each government has different entities at play.

Roe’s Veins of Life group eventually disbanded, but he appears to be getting involved again in the effort. He said Wednesday there are 19 different agencies to deal with when it comes to delving into matters related to the Gorge.

The City of Victoria’s role will be front and centre this week. There are 24 vessels and four floating wharves illegally occupying Victoria’s part of the Gorge. New limits on mooring kick in Friday, and the handful of people living on the boats have been served notice.

The city considered an outright ban, but as usual, government jurisdictions ran into each other, so it was dropped. Another telling sign: The city couldn’t even act on its own — it had to get a “licence of occupation” from B.C. a year ago before it could do something.

Nine of the occupants showed up at a meeting Tuesday, held to offer them assistance in relocating, where some progress was made.

The removal might be subject to injunctions and enforcement orders, so the problem could run for more weeks or months. There was a previous deadline declared in July, after which three vessels were removed.

Roe recalls a time in the 1990s when a number of boats were removed on fairly short notice. But they started creeping back, while other problems continued to fester. There are dozens of private docks along the waterway and only a fraction of them are legal. Public access points have been choked off. And despite the effort that began 21 years ago, there is still lots of debris, or a new generation of debris, that needs to be cleaned out.

But mostly, there needs to be one single entity that regulates the Gorge from one end to the other. Preferably with Roe, or someone like him, involved.

Reflections on an Urban Swim, and the Change One Person Can Make

gorge waterway
After decades of pollution and neglect, The Gorge is once again a popular swimming spot. Photo by Jody Paterson.

It’s a late afternoon in August, and I’m swimming in Victoria’s Gorge Waterway. The sun is reflecting from downtown buildings barely 1.5 kilometres away. Pines and arbutus trees hang over the shore, a few kayakers head up the channel and about a dozen people are swimming or laying on the small public dock in Bamfield Park.

And floating in the cool, slightly salty water, I’m thinking about what a difference one determined person can make.

Even two decades ago, I wouldn’t have thought of swimming in The Gorge, abandoned to pollution and a dumping ground for unwanted tires and shopping carts, surrounded by commercial and residential development.

The waterway runs about six kilometres from Victoria’s upper harbour – still industrial – to Portage Inlet, a big, mostly shallow basin. Several parks provide public access.

It has always been pretty. But for decades, it was no place for a swim. The salmon runs, eelgrass and oyster beds were gone or terribly damaged.

It wasn’t always like that. First Nations fished for herring and salmon and used The Gorge as a meeting place for millennia. A midden under the Tillicum Bridge, where the Gorge Narrows rapids reverse direction with the tides, is 4,000 years old.

And from the late 1800s to the 1920s, The Gorge was central to life in the growing capital.

Victorians travelled in boats and by wagon or streetcar to the Gorge Narrows to picnic, swim or attend outdoor concerts. In 1911, according to Dennis Minaker’s excellent book The Gorge of Summers Gone, the British Columbia Railway Company built an early theme park at the Narrows to encourage more people to use its streetcar line. There was a roller coaster and an attraction that plunged terrified customers down a steep ramp into the water in small boats. Swimming races attracted enthusiastic crowds.

The local athletic association built a rival recreation camp at Curtis Point about 500 metres east of the narrows. There was a campground and tea room and swimming area, shown in this old film . A 34-metre diving tower was used for exhibitions until 1922, when a 19-year-old diver – Billy Muir – was paralyzed in a dive gone wrong. He never really recovered and died three years later.

Around the same time, The Gorge started dying. Victoria was growing and forests and fields around the waterway and Portage Inlet were replaced with houses and roads, sending stormwater and sewage into the waterway. Industries in Victoria’s harbour sent all kinds of waste into the water, and The Gorge became a dumping ground for unwanted items large and small. The once-abundant eelgrass beds and herring and salmon struggled in the polluted waters.

And along came John Roe. I think I read about him around 1994, not long after I moved to Victoria. Roe and his 10-year-old son, in a small rowboat, had decided they would start to clean up The Gorge. They spend weekend days hauling tires and shopping carts from the water and clearing the shoreline.

It seemed noble, but futile. And I wondered if a 10-year-old boy really wanted to spend weekends hauling stuff from murky waters.

But people started helping. Scuba divers volunteered to pull junk from the deeper water. More volunteers participated in the cleanup effort. Businesses started helping.

And then Roe took the next step, and moved beyond the quirky individual effort. In 1996, he and a core group of volunteers created the Veins of Life Watershed Society as a nonprofit dedicated to protecting and improving The Gorge and other local watersheds. The society found some donated office space and tracked down grants to support the work.

One $300,000 project, for example, tackled the cleanup of Cecilia Creek. It was by then more storm sewer than creek, channeled through underground pipes and massively contaminated with everything from fecal coliform to heavy metals. The grant let the society and its partners clean up the creek and work with communities and businesses on reducing the sources of contamination.

And Roe set a goal. By 2000, The Gorge would host a major swimming race for the first time in 65 years, he vowed. And it did.

Each year, it got cleaner. More people started swimming, adding homemade ladders to the few public docks.

And The Gorge recovered. We lived a few blocks away for a time, and kayaked there. The bright green eel grass beds waved with the sweep of the tides, sometimes dotted with herring roe. People lined the Admiral Road bridge, keen on the herring run. Spawning salmon swam up the waterway and returned to Craigflower and Colquitz Creeks, which feed Portage Inlet. Seals hunted the salmon, herons waded the shallows and eagles and kingfishers perched in the trees. Life returned.

There were steps to improve water quality in The Gorge before John Roe started his cleanup effort, of course. Municipalities were making some efforts to reduce runoff and sewage. Saanich had been planning a park along its part of The Gorge since the mid-1960s.

But the efforts were slow, and splintered. (The Gorge, in six kilometres, is bordered by four different municipalities.)

And no one was imagining a Gorge where people would be swimming in clean water.

Roe, hauling scrap metal out of the water in his little boat, suggested that was exactly what we should be imagining.

People united around the idea, and organized and lobbied and worked.

Now, on a warm evening, I can head to The Gorge for a swim. I don’t worry about pollution or whether a recent rain has swept sewage into the waterway. The biggest concern is whether the tide is coming in, bringing colder water from the ocean.

And every time I slip into the water, I think about John Roe and the difference one person can make.

Link to original article: