The fuel in the Sundowner has yet to be removed from the vessel, which is almost fully submerged at the Bella Coola wharf (Caitlin Thompson photo)

Second derelict vessel sinks at Bella Coola wharf

The “Sundowner,” allegedly owned by an individual in Quesnel, is now almost fully submerged.

Another derelict vessel has sunk at the Bella Coola wharf.

The “Sundowner,” allegedly owned by an individual in Quesnel, is now almost fully submerged. Officials from Environment Canada were on hand trying to secure the vessel in preparation to pump out the fuel.

It is unknown at this time how much, if any, fuel has escaped the vessel in its current position.

An observer at the dock said he had seen a hole in the side of the wooden vessel that had been there “for some time.” The cause of the sinking has yet to be confirmed but those familiar with the wharf characterized the boat as “abandoned.”

The problem of abandoned and derelict vessels on the B.C. coast is complex. They pose environmental contamination and safety risks, and the issue of removing them is difficult because of the jurisdictional quagmire that surrounds them.

The issue is so complicated that the BC Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations has produced an 8-page document, Dealing with Problem Vessels and Structures in B.C. Waters, as well as the much more detailed Technical Staff Guide on Problem Vessels and Structures.

The federal government launched their initiative to address abandoned boats in May 2017 under the Oceans Protection Plan. The new program provides grant and contribution funds to assist communities in the assessment, removal and disposal of existing high-priority abandoned and/or wrecked small boats posing a hazard in Canadian waters; educate small-boat owners about how to responsibly manage their end-of-life boats, and support research on boat recycling and environmentally responsible boat design.

Environmental groups have been critical of the initiative, saying the $6.85 million plan “is woefully inadequate to address the enormity of the problem, and requires strengthening.”

At present the Coast Guard is on its way to Bella Coola to assess the damage caused by the Sundowner and to develop a plan for its removal. Updates will be provided in the Coast Mountain News.

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