The long wait for a means to address the issue of abandoned and derelict vessels in Deep Bay may soon be over. The subject has repeatedly been brought to the attention of M.P. John Weston and last week, he responded to let concerned citizens know that it is on the radar screen of the Department of Transport and the federal government in general. He praised members of the community for their "perseverance and passion" and said, "I wanted to express my gratitude to Bruce Russell and other concerned islanders who have given me all the information and brought the issue to my attention. This enabled me to do my job."
Weston says that he has been in regular communications with the minister and that Transport Canada has confirmed the presence of a large number of abandoned and derelict vessels in the Bowen area.He added, "The first step in obtaining a remedy is often the acknowledgement that there's a problem."
Weston has communicated that Transport Canada's Marine Safety Operations and Environmental Programs Branch is currently consulting with various parties that are involved with dealing with abandoned and derelict vessels to assess the scope and proposed approach. A final report of the study is anticipated as soon as the beginning of June.
Among the terms the study examines are the present states of various programs that have dealt with abandoned and derelict vessels. It will also create an inventory and review regulatory gaps in dealing with this issue, hoping to come to an understanding of the funding mechanism and size that is needed to address this issue, and the necessary infrastructure that should be in place to deal with abandoned and derelict vessels. Next steps will also be recommended.
Weston hopes that the study will identify a suitable solution. "This is not the end of the conversation but this issue is clearly on the radar screen of the Ministry of Transport," he said. "The department is looking at a story that is bigger than Bowen - it is looking at the issue of abandoned vessels from coast to coast."
Weston says that the government has an array of competing priorities but in his communication with the ministry, he made it clear that the people on Bowen Island would like a response. "We are pleased that [the ministry has] given us a specific date," he said.
Bruce Russell, president of the Bowen Island Golf Club and long-time advocate for addressing the issue of the abandoned boats, is pleased with Weston's and the government's response. He said, "I thought this was a very positive start, at least from the federal government's position as they have been very non-communicative during the more than a year when a number of locals have been expressing concern about the situation." For Russell, the problem is not confined to derelict vessels, it also includes related garbage on the beaches, long stay anchorage and live-aboards.
Russell also suggested that the Bowen Island Municipality secure a foreshore/water lease like the township of Gibson to be in a better position to take matters into their control as to the use of the foreshore area, including the length of stay and type of use.
Weston is not sure whether the scope of the study will touch on the issue of live-aboards that has come to the attention of Deep Bay residents but he promises to keep Bowen Islanders informed. "I will be looking for answers," he said. "That's my task, to shrink the distance between Bowen Island and Ottawa whether it's with the issue of the abandoned vessels or the sewer extension or the boat ramp."