A group of volunteers hauled 11 derelict boats out of the Mamquam Blind Channel on the weekend.
Led by the Squamish Streamkeepers, on Saturday (Jan. 25) Chris Tamburi of Squamish Water Taxi helped tow the boats to shore where they were dismantled and placed in two large dumpsters.
The Streamkeepers removed three medium-sized and eight smaller derelict vessels from the waterway. Aboard one of the vessels were four fuel tanks that had long seeped fuel into the harbour, Steamkeeper John Matsen wrote in a group email.
“There are still two more medium-size boats to go, which may happen next week,” he stated.
Squamish Coun. Ted Prior brought out his backhoe and crushed the vessels, allowing them to be placed into the dumpsters. The District of Squamish waived dumping fees, he noted.
The number of derelict boats in the waterway is significant, Prior said.
“We live on an estuary,” he said. “I think 30 to 40 per cent of people that live here because of that.”
The District of Squamish needs to take a strong stance on the issue, Prior said. When the Elf tugboat sank in the channel on Jan. 14 — leaking 1,500 litres of diesel into the waterway — district officials should have placed themselves in front of the bank of assembled TV cameras, Prior said.
“The next day we should have had a discussion,” he said, adding that council has had no talks regarding the topic.
The issue of derelict and unmaintained vessels involves multiple layers of government, limited resources and a spider web of legalities and liability. While the province owns much of B.C.’s land covered by water and has the same rights over its lands as an owner, the ability to make laws and regulate what goes on in navigable waters is a federal responsibility.
Last summer coastal municipalities within the West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country riding pledged to write letters to the area’s MP John Weston voicing their concern. Squamish only recently posted its letter, Prior said.
“There really has to be strong language from the district,” he said. “We need to be given some authority sooner rather than later.”
In a letter to The Chief, Weston said that after hearing of the situation with the Elf, he contacted DFO officials “to determine lines of responsibility and appropriate responses.”
Canadian law places the onus for spill response on the vessel’s owner, Weston said. The Coast Guard’s role is to advise the vessel owner of his/her responsibilities and, if necessary, manage the cleanup operation.
“Like many of your readers, I will continue to monitor the situation in Squamish carefully, and will assist in any way I can,” he said.