A container ship prepares to dock at Port of Delta. Gabriola residents are worried about a plan to anchor ships off the island’s coast.

A container ship prepares to dock at Port of Delta. Gabriola residents are worried about a plan to anchor ships off the island’s coast.

Islands Trust opposed to Gabriola anchorage plan

NANAIMO – Pacific Pilotage Authority wants to anchor freighters off Gabriola Island.

Islands Trust has voiced opposition to a Pacific Pilotage Authority proposal to anchor freighters off Gabriola Island.

Trust council, serving Salish Sea-area islands, voted to have Peter Luckham, chairman, write Prime Minister Justin Trudeau voicing dissent and requesting suspension of new anchorages until Transport Canada has assessed risk of the projected increased vessel traffic and development of a 20-year mitigation plan.

Luckham said there are environmental and safety issues and severe weather patterns that are impacting marine traffic and vessel safety at anchorage. The north end of Gabriola Island is a vulnerable location, he said.

“[It also] has definite social impacts on properties and people’s lives, in terms of viewscape looking out across the Georgia Strait there and have tourism impacts and the like and so it’s not just about the marine and the ecology,” said Luckham.

The Pacific Pilotage Authority conducted an environmental assessment with consultant Tetra Tech EBA, which it forwarded to Fisheries and Oceans Canada because anchors could hit the ocean floor, said Kevin Obermeyer, authority CEO. Fisheries told the authority wasn’t required to do a full assessment.

Obermeyer said the next steps include determining who has jurisdiction to designate anchorages, as there seems to be uncertainty because there has been changes in legislation over many years and it has been a long time since anyone has needed to designate an anchorage, he said.

“I don’t want to forge ahead with not knowing where I’m going,” Obermeyer said. “There hasn’t been a designation for years and years and years.”

Don Furnell, a Gabriola resident and former chairman of Vancouver Island University’s aquaculture faculty, examined the report and has questions about anchor chains. There are 259 metres of anchor sitting on the bottom and links are about 227 kilograms each.

“The boats, when they’re out there, and it’s not windy, the anchor chain hangs straight down from the boat. Wind pushes them around, tides push them around and so that chain just scours the whole bottom around the anchorage site,” said Furnell.