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Derelict boats removed from Ucluelet Harbour

Coastal Restoration Society receives another $837, 237 to remove 18 derelict vessels
Get the “hull” out of here! A crane lifts the hull of the old Bonilla onto a barge on July 21, 2021. (Nick Touchie photo)

A big white derelict fishing boat named ‘Bonilla’ sat on the shores of Kvarno Island at the top of the Ucluelet Inlet for over 15 years.

On July 21, the hardworking crew from Coastal Restoration Society and Ucluelet First Nation (UFN) spent the better part of the day digging her out of the sand and taking her apart.

“It took almost all of us to get it apart. The keel was so thick that we had to dig around it and keep cutting wedges into it,” said UFN Nick Touchie.

He was surprised to discover the Bonilla still had fuel.

“When we got to it, we were told that the fuel tanks were empty. We were cutting around it and as we were ready to take apart the part supporting the fuel tank, I was going to pull up one of the boards and fuel came out of the top. We checked the other ones they were pretty full too,” he said.

The Bonilla is one of nine derelict vessels that were removed from the Ucluelet Harbour this summer as part of the $2.5 million in funding Coastal Restoration Society received from the provincial government’s Clean Coast, Clean Waters Initiative Fund to clean up 400 kilometres of shoreline along the Island’s west coast.

With only one more derelict vessel remaining to clean up out of the nine, the summer project is coming to an end, but more work is on the horizon. Recently, on July 16, as part of Canada’s Oceans Protection Plan the federal government awarded Coastal Restoration Society another $837, 237 for the removal and disposal of 18 derelict vessels. Two are located near Bamfield, eight in Barkley Sound and eight are in Nootka Sound.

READ: Feds doling out $1.5M for removal of 18 derelict boats from B.C., Atlantic coasts

Coastal Restoration Society’s project manager Spencer Binda is excited about the funding windfall.

“Our goal is to balance economy and ecology. With that we are hoping to continue the employment of local First Nations community members whose traditional territories we operate in. We are expanding our core crew,” said Binda.

“We are trying to make sure there is long-term employment and that this isn’t ‘work until the boats are gone’ and then the work is done,” he went on to say.

Coastal Restoration Society’s executive director Andrea McQuade says there is no deficit of work to be done.

“With appropriate funding in place we can continue to train and retain staff from project to project. Coastal Restoration Society welcomes anyone from any industry that is looking to transition, re-skill or supplement their current employment. As funding and support for remediation, restoration and removals grows, the stability and longevity of these jobs will as well,” she said.

Touchie points out the need to clean up broken up docks and abandoned aquaculture farms.

“I’m happy to stay on the this job for a while. It’s working out pretty good. I like it. They are good guys. They are very professional. Every one of them. I’m learning a lot,” he said.

Binda estimates that roughly 80 tonnes of debris will be removed from the Ucluelet Harbour and shoreline as part of the nine vessel clean up. That debris includes old fuel, toxic paint, degrading fibreglass and dangerous metals.

“We have a pretty rigorous sorting system for it. Anything that can be recycled gets sent off to recycling depots. Anything that is metal get sent off for repurposing and then the rest of it, like rotten wood, gets sent to landfill,” said Binda.

He encouraged anyone with an old boat that’s ready to be put to rest to reach out to Coastal Restoration Society.

“Call or email us instead of beaching it. We can maybe figure out a way of working on getting that boat out before it ends up getting beached in the environment and protecting our shoreline right from the get-go,” he said.

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