Proposed artificial reef sparks dispute in British Columbia

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Proposed artificial reef sparks dispute in British Columbia

March 15, 2014 - 15:11

Gambier Island residents deem project environmentally unsafe

HMCS Annapolis

Plans to scuttle a decommissioned Canadian naval destroyer escort ship off Gambier Island have sparked opposition amongst local residents. The Artificial Reef Society of BC (ARSBC) plans to sink the HMCS Annapolis in Halkett Bay to attract divers. The vessel is currently moored at West Bay on Gambier Island, which is located in Howe Sound north of Vancouver.

Gambier homeowner Gary MacDonald and members of The Save Halkett Bay Campaign are lobbying to prevent the HMCS Annapolis from being sunk in the bay. According to MacDonald, a recently released Environment Canada study reveals pollution levels in some of the ships components are more than eight times the allowable limit. Environment Canada recently issued a request for proposals from companies interested in stripping all insulation from the ship as it contains polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

"We've been calling for a thorough investigation of the ship's state for years," said MacDonald. "We're adamant that Halkett Bay is absolutely the wrong place to sink a ship. There is too much tidal action and there is a fair likelihood that the ship will actually come apart once it's sunk. It's simply the wrong place."

Howard Robins of the ARSBC is heading up the Annapolis project. He said the sunken vessel would bring marine biodiversity to Halkett Bay. ”These are very good projects, they do a lot for the marine ecology and they certainly bring in a lot of tourism dollars to the province because it's based on eco-adventure dive tourism — but fundamentally artificial reefs help bring back biodiversity," said Robins. "It's needed and that's exactly why we've got it in Halkett Bay. It's all a good thing."

Robins stresses the ARSBC is suitably preparing the Annapolis and is in no rush to sink the vessel. The ARSBC needs to deal with environmental concerns and one more permit is required before the ship can be sent to the bottom of the bay. "They have to be done right, and they have to be done to code, and done to the standards," he said of artificial reef projects.

The HMCS Annapolis was launched in April 1963 and removed from service in 1998. The ARSBC purchased the ship in 2008.

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