On a foggy Friday morning divers spend hours working aboard a 60-foot boat at the bottom of Oak Bay.
The cement boat is one of eight that littered the waters off the marina until the project between the Dead Boat Disposal Society, Songhees Nation and Ralmax (Salish Sea Industrial Services) and the province came to call.
It is the biggest challenge, eventually making its way, through the air by crane, to a barge anchored nearby.
In the spring, the province pledged $9.5 million from the Clean Coast, Clean Waters Initiative Fund to tackle shoreline cleanups and derelict vessel removals. Songhees Development Corporation was one of four agencies to receive a grant.
Songhees hired a crew of four to canvass the coast and find boats needing recovery and disposal, said Wesley Roe of the Dead Boat Disposal Society.
The project was funded $2 million to focus on removing 100 derelict vessels on southern Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands.
Approvals are in place for 87, Roe said. The program is also working north to remove vessels in Ladysmith, Comox and Lasqueti Island and exploring as far north as Telegraph Cove.
The barges and crane started work Thursday (Oct. 14), but before that the municipality and another crew of divers scouted and mapped out the locations of vessels needing removal.
These eight are among 100 pollutant vessels the partnership with Salish Sea Industries and the Dead Boat Disposal Society aims to pull from Island waterways.
“It’s bad for our fish, it’s bad for our wildlife, it’s bad for people who want to swim in those areas.”
Getting information on where the vessels are, and funding are the two main challenges, Roe said. They use drones, divers and locals to source and locate boats settled in waterways.
Finding the right crews, such as Salish Sea who remove the vessels with the health of the waterway in mind, is also crucial, Roe said. The Dead Boat Disposal Society has been working with Salish Sea for two years on similar projects.
The society also works with owners who feel their boats are derelict and don’t know what to do with them.
“They can sign over to us a bill of sale and we’ll try to work it so we can get their boat into the project as well. It costs a lot more money when it’s sunken or shipwrecked versus if we can get it floating to our docks,” Roe said.
To learn more about a partnership, or identify a dead boat, find the organization online at facebook.com/DBDSBC, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 250-538-2120.
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