Residents of Gabriola Island are voicing opposition to a proposal that could see freighters anchoring in island waters.
Gabriola Anchor Rage, a grassroots movement, has sprung up in response to a Pacific Pilotage Authority of Canada plan that aims to establish anchorage sites for five capesize vessels, 300 metres long, off the northeastern shore of the island.
— Nanaimo Bulletin (@NanaimoBulletin) August 13, 2015
Heather Nicholas, Gabriola trustee and Anchor Rage liaison for Islands Trust, said it is inappropriate to anchor ships a quarter of kilometre long so close to Gabriola’s shores. She has numerous concerns, including potential for serious environmental impact.
“There’s the impact on the seabed, because these are not small anchors or small chains and so anything that’s put down is going to be devastating. Having these chains scraping along the sea floor and so on is going to be devastating to habitat, to anything living down there.
“There’s a lot of species that rely on our marine floor and our marine waters and they’ll be all be put at risk,” said Nicholas.
Additionally, she said there are noise, light and pollution concerns for people residing in that immediate vicinity.
Kevin Obermeyer, pilotage authority CEO, pointed out that this is still a proposal. He said the process has taken about three years and areas in Delta and Galiano Island were examined.
“We looked at the whole area. For the most part, this coast of ours is not conducive to anchoring ships. It’s got a rock bottom or it’s very, very steep. So if you anchored the ship, you’re going to be so close to the land that it would be unsafe, so we don’t have a lot of options.
“Believe me, we went through this until the only one that made sense, unfortunately, was Gabriola,” said Obermeyer.
Vessels anchoring would be mostly bulk carriers – no oil tankers – and most would be empty, awaiting cargo mainly in the Vancouver port, Obermeyer said. Nanaimo has its own anchorages and it is unlikely any of the ships would load in the Harbour City.
The authority is conducting an environmental review and anticipates holding public consultation in early 2016, said Obermeyer.