Ed Johnson, Citizen Journalist
Derelict boats in Tod Inlet gained increased attention from the community when Saanich Voice Online reported on the growing problem back in June 2011. The story was one of conflicting jurisdictions and lack of funding that did not bode well for a simple solution.
Solving this complex problem was no easy task, but that did not stop Councillor Adam Olsen from trying. As a lifelong resident of Central Saanich, Tod Inlet has been enjoyed by his family for generations and is a way of life for the Tsartlip First Nation residents.
Keeping the issue at the forefront at the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) and with all levels of government was Councillor Olsen’s top priority. With the help of the entire former Central Saanich council, the initial efforts to clean up Tod Inlet finally started to pay off when Transport Canada began enforcement proceedings.
In a report to the District of Central Saanich in the fall of last year, Transport Canada indicated that they had posted removal notices with thirty-day deadlines to illegal mooring buoys, docks and vessels in the inlet – some of which were a hazard to navigation.
Transport Canada hauled the non-compliant buoys and floating debris to the nearby Tsartlip First Nation boat ramp, where the District of Central Saanich supplied the manpower and the equipment to move the debris to a disposal site. The first wave of enforcement netted four vessels, ten buoys and two docks in the two-day operation.
Following the success of the first ‘cooperative clean up’, a second wave of notices were posted this year on floating docks and abandoned boats, that will have seen further action by the time this story is printed. After costs are assessed, a contractor will begin the work of towing errant floating remains to a land-based storage, provided by the Tsartlip band of which Councillor Olsen is a member. If unclaimed after thirty days, the District will provide dump truck and backhoe services for removal to a disposal site.
“It is exciting to see three levels of government involved; First Nations, municipal and federal. It is a rare example of working together that has had a positive payback,” says Olsen.
A positive payback indeed, but not without a long struggle for many groups, such as the Central Saanich Maritime Society, the Saanich Inlet Protection Society, and numerous local citizens – all voicing alarm about the growing problems in Tod Inlet.
The District was reluctant to spend staff time on a problem that was viewed as federal jurisdiction. Gary Lunn, former MP for the area, even took the concern to Ottawa, but to no avail. As the provincial and federal elections constantly changed the players, the issue was nearly forgotten – but not by the community.
Since the derelict boat problem was not unique to Tod Inlet, a plan was mapped out two years ago, to bring the issue to the Tri-Municipal Council (Central Saanich, Sidney and North Saanich), which forwarded the issue to the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities (AVICC). Located in Victoria the AVICC debates resolutions which are then brought to the UBCM convention.
As a result of presentations at the UCBM convention, it became clear that almost nothing was being done in Canadian waters.
By this time, however, the Tod Inlet issue had been raised to a high enough level locally, that the once grassroots movement, was finally nearing a solution. The combined efforts of local governments, convinced Transport Canada to make Tod Inlet a priority for remediation.
The leadership that Central Saanich council demonstrated in cleaning up Tod Inlet is a reminder to residents of the importance of local government. In the end, it has been a ‘good news story’ for local waters; it just took a while to get there.