Islands Trust asks province to stop sinking of warship

HMCS Annapolis

The Islands Trust has once again asked Environment Minister Mary Polak to intervene in the proposed sinking of the decommissioned warship HMCS Annapolis in Halkett Bay.

“In 2011, we wrote to Minister Lake to convey our opposition to the sinking of this vessel and the reasons for our concerns. Since Minister Lake’s reply in 2011, we have not been informed of any updates regarding the project, but have learned from recent media articles that the vessel could be sunk this year in Halkett Bay, off Gambier Island,” a letter from the Islands Trust Council to the Minister stated. “Trust Council holds that artificial reefs should not be developed in the Trust Area. [We are] urging you to reflect this policy.”

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When contacted by Coast Reporter, media relations spokesperson Kim Franklin said the Minister had received the letter and was in the process of responding.

The Islands Trust council and members of the group Save Halkett Bay have been concerned that polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), found onboard the warship earlier this year after it was cleaned by volunteers with the Artificial Reef Society of B.C. (ARSBC), could pollute the water and negatively impact ocean life in the area.

“Only after PCBs are removed and all authorizations approved by Transport Canada, Environment Canada and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, will the province consider allowing the ARSBC to sink the HMCS Annapolis in Halkett Bay Provincial Marine Park as an artificial reef,” Franklin said.

Environment Canada hired a contractor to remove PCBs found in the vessel’s insulation and paint earlier this year “after talks with the ARSBC and legal creditors,” Franklin noted.

Although the ship has reportedly been cleaned of PCBs (as of June, 2014) the ARSBC must complete a final inspection by a private contractor approved by Environment Canada before Polak will consider granting its sinking as an artificial reef.

 “The ARSBC must fully meet Environment Canada’s vessel cleaning and disposal regulations for vessel disposal at sea. The regulations extend beyond PCBs removal to ensure the vessel is clean to a standard which meets or exceeds the regulations,” Franklin said. “One or more final inspections are carried out by the private contractor the ARSBC hires. The contractor submits a final report directly to Environment Canada and the ARSBC. The report outlines any mitigating requirements which must be completed prior to the vessel being approved by Environment Canada for disposal at sea.”

The ARSBC has been trying to sink the HMCS Annapolis as an artificial reef in Halkett Bay since 2009 and has in the past been given the green light by the province. However, the sinking was stalled when PCBs were found on board.

If the ship can be deemed clean, it looks like the province still wants to sink it.

“Based on previous experience with artificial reef projects, such as Porteau Cove, it is believed that an artificial reef will create enhanced fish stock habitat and greater marine life diversity, while also creating socio-economic benefits for local diving companies,” Franklin noted.

There is currently a lawsuit against the ARSBC for unpaid moorage fees for the HMCS Annapolis that has been floating near Halkett Bay while work to clean the vessel has been underway.

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