Gabriola Islanders continue to fight against freighters dropping anchor off their waters.
Five of these anchorage sites are proposed off Gabriola Island and there is a grassroots group, Gabriolans Against Freighter Anchorages Society, voicing opposition. According to Chris Straw, society president, there are numerous issues.
The group became involved when a proposal, seeking new anchorage sites off Gabriola’s northeast coast, came to light in 2015, said Straw. Since then, there has also been an increase in usage of existing anchorages – there are about 33 sites throughout the southern Gulf Islands.
Concerns have been expressed about the anchors dragging along the sea floor, damaging the habitat and Straw said there are risks of ships running aground, but the most immediate impact for residents that live near anchorages is the noise. Even when ships aren’t running, diesel generators are used to keep the equipment going and fuel circulating, he said.
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“So they’re running 24/7 and then there’s a lot of noise associated with the anchor chains going up and down and opening and closing of the big hatch covers and this sort of stuff, plus other equipment that they operate. So there’s kind of an industrial level of noise that has an impact, not only on the people, but obviously on the environment and birds and everything else.”
Sheila Malcolmson, Nanaimo-Ladysmith member of Parliament and Gabriola resident, presented petitions in the House of Commons last month, asking the Government of Canada to discontinue five bulk anchorages off the island, which would be used in the exporting of coal from Wyoming to China for power plant fuel.
Malcolmson also wrote both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Minister of Transport Marc Garneau in July 2016 and last December and was notified last week that her correspondence has been received.
“I just have been feeling like I’ve heard enough people say, ‘No, we just don’t think this is viable,’ even people that are pretty close to the government and I just keep thinking that I’m giving them an opening to announce that it’s been cancelled, but I thought that in December and so I’m surprised we still don’t have that good news,” said Malcolmson.
In an e-mail, Annie Joannette, spokeswoman for Transport Canada, said the ministry will consider the proposed changes as part of the Oceans Protection Plan national anchorages review, which is determining a set of standards for the selection and use of existing or new anchorage locations in Canada.
Information on interim protocol for the use of Southern B.C. anchorages can be viewed at Transport Canada’s website at www.canada.ca/en/services/transport.html.