Transport Canada has announced funding to help coastal communities clear out abandoned boats and vessels that pose both as an eyesore and safety concern.
The department says $1.3 million is being made available to assess and remove abandoned boats from ports and harbours in British Columbia and Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as to support an education campaign to deter the practice.
Transport Minister Marc Garneau was in Ladysmith on Monday to make the announcement, saying at least 21 vessels will be removed from harbours in Victoria, Vancouver, Ladysmith and Port Saunders, N.L.
The funding provided through the Abandoned Boats Program will go towards removing seven vessels in Ladysmith Harbour, including three that are grounded off of Slack Point.
Making the announcement at the Ladysmith Community Marina, Garneau said first phase of funding will “get the ball rolling” in cleaning up the wrecks.
“In due course what we’re going to do is a complete inventory of all the abandoned vessels that exist in Canada – that’s never been done on all three coasts,” he said.
“One of the things we will be looking at is to create a fund that vessels owners contribute to, we do this in the oil business…. and we’re thinking of creating a similar fund in the case of abandoned vessel so that there will be a pool of money.”
Two vessels included in the Ladysmith’s original application were washed away in a recent storm.
Mayor Aaron Stone said the town is taking a phased approach to tackling the issue plaguing local waters.
“This is just an initial phase of some of the most egregious examples that we have in our harbour,” he said.
“We’ve taken a priority-based approach to this understanding that there is limited funding available. We are going to be making subsequent applications to move through that backlog but as we work through that we’ll hopefully be able to get to it through the next few years but we understand also that there are other communities who are going to be vying for that funding.”
The Capital Regional District of Victoria, the Pender Harbour Advisory Council, and the District of Sechelt will all split up to $90,000 to assess 26 abandoned boats and wrecks. Once completed, they will then be eligible to apply for federal funding to help in the removal of the boats.
CRD is also receiving $50,100 to deliver an outreach program to educate boat owners on recycling and disposal options in the hopes of addressing abandonment issues in the region. The not-for-profit Boating BC Association also will be provided with $150,000 for a campaign aimed at increasing awareness around owners of end of life boats.
As Transport Canada estimates there are possibly thousands of these abandoned vessels, Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP Sheila Malcolmson said the funding was a “drop in the bucket” compared to what’s actually needed to address the issue.