Dozens of sunken or abandoned vessels, as well as other marine debris, may soon be removed from Cowichan Bay, Genoa Bay and Maple Bay through a provincial grant program.
Cowichan Bay’s Pacific Industrial & Marine is hoping to partner with Cowichan Tribes to receive provincial funding to help clear the bays of the boats and debris.
Brian Thatcher, owner of PIM, which specializes in all aspects of marine and bridge construction, said the company was approached by Cowichan Tribes to submit a joint application for funding from B.C.’s new Clean Coast, Clean Waters Initiative Fund that is providing more than $9.5 million for projects to clear B.C.’s shores of marine debris and derelict vessels.
The program requires the applicant to get permission from abandoned boat owners and then take possession, remove and recycle or landfill these vessels.
It also covers removal of marine debris that has washed up or been dumped into the ocean and/or shoreline.
After removing approximately 20 derelict vessels from Cowichan Bay over the last few years at its own expense, as well as a significant amount of marine debris, PIM has plenty of experience in the field.
“We had already started a process to pull a lot more of the boats and material out of Cowichan Bay as a community service, at no cost to the public,” Thatcher said.
“We had met with the divers and were beginning to talk to the Cowichan Valley Regional District about disposal costs, and then the government came up with this grant program and we were contacted by the Cowichan Tribes.”
Thatcher said it’s still too early in the process to determine just how much of the funding from the program would be required for the local projects, but he expects the amount will be between $500,000 and $3 million.
He said if the grant request gets the green light, it could allow PIM and Cowichan Tribes to expand operations and also begin to clear Genoa Bay and Maple Bay of their derelict vessels and marine debris as well.
Thatcher said there are at least 27 more sunken vessels in Cowichan Bay that should be removed, and he suspects that there are a lot more in Genoa Bay and Maple Bay as well.
But the deadline for submitting the application for funding was Feb. 15, and Thatcher said the current COVID-19 outbreak in Cowichan Tribes’ made it difficult for the First Nation to help complete the application process in time.
“PIM is working towards submitting the application and we hope to formalize our partnership with Cowichan Tribes at a later date,” Thatcher said.
“Our application also requires letters of support from local governments [CVRD and North Cowichan], and there’s still a lot of other work to do in a short time. The grant program is timely in that we were going to do it for nothing anyway, but now, if we’re successful, it will involve working with the Cowichan Tribes and getting a lot more done than originally planned, and that’s better for everyone.”
The program was developed in response to the strong public call to action on marine debris that Nanaimo MLA Sheila Malcolmson heard when she toured coastal communities in the summer of 2019.
At the time, Malcolmson was serving as parliamentary secretary for the environment when she was the federal MP for Nanaimo-Ladysmith.
The main concerns raised by local governments and individuals during Malcolmson’s tour included abandoned vessels, mooring buoys, polystyrene foam, aquaculture debris and single-use plastics.