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Feds ignore derelict boat

A pesky half-sunk boat in Okanagan Lake near Vernon has one City Councillor seeing red.

“I know the response is that it is in the waterways and thus it is not our jurisdiction but it is an issue that there is an abandoned boat and it has become a real safety hazard to our community,” Councillor Mary O'Keefe told council. “It has been completely abandoned and it has been attracting several nefarious characters.”

She says the boat is dangerous and becoming a popular attraction for teens and the city needs the federal government to step up before someone is seriously hurt.

Fellow councillors, and the mayor, were quick to support O'Keefe's plea for something to be done, but apparently City hands are tied because the boat is in Okanagan Lake, and the lake is a federal waterway.

“It is a federal responsibility and they are abdicating,” said a frustrated Mayor Rob Sawatzky.

Council supported O'Keefe's motion to not only send a letter to the federal government seeking some sort of response, but also requesting City staff to come back with a report of their options.

“It is going to affect our citizens, what if a child drowns on it after partying?” asked O'Keefe. “What can we do to entice them to do something about it?”

They are hoping that the federal government will either deal with the boat themselves or give the City of Vernon authority to look after the matter.

Abandoned boats are an issue throughout BC waterways and along BC's coast. The boats are under federal jurisdiction, but the federal government does little to clean up these derelict ships often leaving people who live near the shore to privately foot the bill.

Transport Canada conducted a survey in 2013 detailing local government concerns, and identifying potential solutions to address the issue.

They found that a major problem with the removal of derelict vessels is that no one really knows who is in charge of the matter. Several agencies could be involved at the same time depending on: 

  • the size of the vessel
  • potential danger to the public
  • environmental concerns

Canadian Coast Guard (CCG), Transport Canada’s Navigable Waters Protection Program or a Navigable Waters Protection Officer designated under the Canada Shipping Act could all hypothetically be in charge.

A majority of the survey responders noted that the legal, jurisdictional and financial uncertainties are a major challenge in the successful removal of vessels.

Vessel removal can cost anywhere from $1,500 to hundreds of thousands depending on the size and circumstances of the wreck.

Survey participants pointed out that in many cases it is the shoreline owner, the local municipal or provincial governments and community organizations that have to be prepared to cover the costs of the removal operation. It was also reported that it is often impossible to locate the owner of the vessel to recoup costs.

Transport Canada estimates there are around 400 abandoned ships strewn throughout Canadian waterways.

Calls to the Member of Parliament for the Okanagan-Shuswap Colin Mayes regarding the derelict ship have gone unanswered.  

Do you know of other boats that have been abandoned in water ways and lakes? Send us the location, photographs and video to [email protected]

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