Recommendations for the Future
In 1993, following the controversial dumping of the derelict naval ships the HMCS Chaudiere, Mackenzie and Columbia, Georgia Strait Alliance made these 12 recommendations to the federal and provincial governments.
Our concerns still stand.
- Citizens must be able to communicate with elected officials and other decision-makers. Relevant information, scientific studies, community input etc. must make it through the “official channels” to be shared with the Minister and all appropriate staff.
- Environmental assessments must be site-specific, and take into account biological diversity and ecological significance of the site, impacts on biota/ecosystem and oceanographic information. The assessment should also include socio-economic concerns, such as community values, impacts on existing activities (eg. hatcheries, shellfish growing, sports fishing etc.), and native concerns or objections.
- In any environmental assessment, the burden of proof must be on the proponent to prove, in an open public process, that the project will be benign to the marine/coastal environment – not on the project’s opponents to prove it is harmful.
- A project proposal must have independent, credible and unassailable science to back it up.
- Local community views must be actively and broadly sought. It will not suffice to rely solely on either the proponent’s or the local media’s analysis of how the community views a proposal.
- Costs of necessary studies or surveys should be borne by the proponent, with independent studies carried out by government.
- Environmental assessment must be an open and public process. The public must be able to get all relevant information (including access to the ship), and where there is community concern, the process must include public meetings – ie. advertised in advance; government officials and the proponent present; questions can be put to both of them by the public; and the public is invited to speak/make submissions. Intervenor funding should be available to community groups needing help getting resources or technical assistance. Input from all public meeting and other submissions must be carefully considered in the decision-making process.
- The environmental assessment process must not be rushed. It is important to consider all the data, issues and potential environmental, social, economic and other impacts (both short and long term), to gather wide public input, and to bend over backwards to make sure that the process is not only fair, but appears to be fair.
- For any further ships to be deliberately sunk, they must be clean beyond any doubt.
- Before any more ships are deliberately sunk, a thorough study should be completed of the long-term impacts of artificial reefs and the factors that have played a role in successful biological enhancement through reef construction (eg. type of materials, size, construction method, location, distance from natural reefs, depth, distance from shore, etc.). This study should include a thorough review of all of the scientific evidence from Japan, New Zealand, Florida, California and anywhere else that artificial reefs have been employed or considered.
- No further permits should be granted for ship sinkings until such time as the above requirements have been met, and until long-term (eg. 5-year) studies of any effects from the sinking of the Chaudiere, MacKenzie and Columbia are completed and the results made public. At that time, if a sinking permit is to be considered, there should first be a baseline study of the proposed site (to determine biological diversity, fish and other marine organisms’ populations, water quality, tidal currents, oceanographic characteristics etc.), so that ongoing environmental monitoring will be meaningful.
- A condition of any future permit must be that the proponents retain competent professional advice on how to scuttle the vessel so that it is sunk in a manner that is safe and accessible for divers.