The province is investigating the placement of 33 Styrofoam-and-cement docks on Anvil Island after a large number of them broke up in heavy storms, spreading debris across a wide swath of Howe Sound.
Originally purchased from Thunderbird Marine in West Vancouver for a nominal fee, the docks were towed to the west side of Anvil Island and stored without the required permission from the province, Brennan Clarke, a spokesman for the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, said in an email.
A significant amount of material remains on the site, Clarke said.
“Staff have issued a trespass notice giving the owner approximately two weeks to clean up the remaining material. The owner has indicated a willingness to undertake this work as soon as possible,” he said. “If the owner fails to take action, the province has the power to levy a fine of up to $1,000 and/or clean up the debris on the owner's behalf and seek repayment of those costs.”
The Ministry is conducting the investigation under Section 60 of the Land Act, which addresses the unauthorized use of Crown land, he said.
Provincial officials are also consulting Environment Canada “to ascertain whether any aspects of this matter fall under federal jurisdiction,” Clarke said.
Federal communications officials contacted by Coast Reporter were unable to say at press time whether the marine debris cleanup fell under the responsibility of Environment Canada, Transport Canada or the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. The provincial Ministry of Environment had previously deemed it “a federal matter.”
The issue came to light earlier this month when Squamish conservationist John Buchanan discovered the docks had broken up, scattering Styrofoam debris along the west side of Anvil Island, the north shore of Gambier Island and south of McNab Creek.
Using his GPS, Buchanan said he identified about 15 large sections of Styrofoam blocks, “covered in a thick coating of concrete,” floating on the surface of Howe Sound, including one as big as a truck.
In a Dec. 19 email to The Chief, Buchanan said he was gratified with the response to his calls for a cleanup and investigation.
“The whole of the Howe Sound community has stepped forward on this,” Buchanan wrote. “This is the first time that I have seen both governments and groups come together and all pull in the same direction. The people I have been working with in the local Natural Resources department — outstanding!”
Buchanan said the incident highlights the need for updated guidelines on the construction of both floating and stationary docks.
“Creosote pilings are out and Styrofoam also cannot be used in dock construction,” he wrote. “You can have a look at any of the docks that use exposed Styrofoam in their design and you can see how much of the block has been worn away. All this Styrofoam ends up in the ocean, and inevitably on your dinner plate from a contaminated food chain.”
District of Squamish officials said on the district's Facebook page that some of the Styrofoam has been found on the shore as far north as Darrell Bay. Smaller amounts of Styrofoam (a garbage bag or less) can be dropped off at Carney's Recycling Centre, while larger amounts may be brought to the Squamish Landfill for no charge, officials said. For information, visit www.carneyswaste.com or www.squamish.ca
— With files from David Burke, The Chief