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Sandy Cove feeling abandoned as abandoned boats remain on beach

SANDY COVE, NS – Sandy Cove residents are fed up with the feds as two abandoned boats continue to lie on the east side of Sandy Cove Beach.

One has been there for over three years, and one around three months. Gwen Wilson, with other members of the Digby Neck Collective, has spoken out on the issue, and Noah Richler, a cove resident, has become an issue spokesman and emailed the government expressing the community’s concerns.

After Richler’s emails led to little response, residents were left wondering what would happen until Linda Gregory and the Digby municipality confirmed an application was submitted to a government program to get the boats off the beach.

“It’s not our problem, but it is our issue,” said Gregory, of the problem that does not fall within municipal responsibilities.

“We do what we can for the common good, and have been working on this issue for years, and are now at last hopeful we’re coming close to a resolution.”


The boats on the beach

The boats currently sit on the east side of the Sandy Cove Beach, where active boats are also docked, and where residents and tourists regularly walk and swim.

The boats present a threefold hazard, according to Richler and Wilson – they threaten the local environment, the beach’s pedestrians and swimmers, and the local tourism economy.

And, on top of everything, they are an eyesore the community wants gone.

Gwen Wilson feels the boats haven’t been removed within a reasonable time because no one wants to shoulder the cost.

“No level of government wants to spend our dollars to remove those boats. It’s frustrating, because it makes us feel we aren’t valued or respected,” she said.

“You don’t feel anyone is listening or paying attention.”


Lacking clarity on actionable outcome

Noah Richler became a spokesperson for this issue August 28 when he sent an email to the Digby Municipality, Clare Digby MLA Gordon Wilson and West Nova MP Colin Fraser, calling for action on the immediate removal of the two boats.

Richler received a response September 2 from Gordon Wilson, who replied saying the boats were a federal responsibility.

He then received a response from Fraser’s administration September 27, citing the MP had been in touch with the ministry, and would respond when they heard back.

That was the last email he received, which left him feeling frustrated.

“The lack of response from our federal officials on this issue felt, to be frank, appalling,” he said.

Linda Gregory, along with council, has been working to get the boats removed since the problem began in 2014.

The owner of the first boat is known, but because of complicated procedures, the municipality has been unable to have the boat removed.

The owner of the second boat is not officially confirmed.

Now, Gregory has confirmed she’s been in touch with the provincial Department of Natural Resources, who’ve flagged several abandoned boats across the province in need of removal.

DNR has applied for a partnership funding – paid for partially by them and partially with federal funds – under the Abandoned Boats Program’s Assessment and Removals fund, and is waiting to here whether the application is accepted.

The application includes the two boats in Sandy Cove, along with the other flagged ones.

If accepted, they’ve told Gregory and the rest of council the boats should be gone within the 2017 year.

“That’s what we were told. We still don’t know for sure, but at this point, we are hoping,” said Gregory.


Feds show support for other vessel removals

Transport minister Marc Garneau announced the new Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act October 30 in the House of Commons, which supports the removal of abandoned vessels.

If passed, the act will hold vessel owners accountable for dumping with fines of up to $300,000 and a six-month jail term. Corporations that dump could face fines as high as $6 million.

The act is based on a motion presented by South Shore-St. Margaret’s MP Bernadette Jordan, who successfully campaigned for the removal of the abandoned and decrepit Farley Mowat vessel in Shelburne in July 2017.

The act was well received by the house, which includes West Nova MP Colin Fraser.

When asked why he didn’t immediately show support for the problem in 2014, Fraser responded saying his office has been in contact with the Digby municipality since 2016, expressing support and referring the problem to the Department of Transportation.

“Do I wish we could have acted sooner on this? Absolutely,” said Fraser.

“The big picture is that we have to get these two vessels cleaned up.”


Not taken seriously soon enough

But Wilson and Richler both wonder why the problem wasn’t taken seriously back in 2014, when it began with the first boat.

“These boats are a relatively small fry to them, but they still have a massive effect locally,” said Richler.

“This should have been a priority all along.”

Even Fraser and the municipality only began receiving responses in 2016 that communicated something beyond confirming the issue was serious.

“Over the course of three years, I spoke to Colin when he got elected, who agreed the boats were, ‘an issue that had to be dealt with,’” said Gregory.

“I’d previously spoken to Greg Kerr, when he was MP, who also felt it was the same,” she said, confirming that’s as far as communication on the boats went.

But now, things are moving. There is no firm date, nor commitment beyond a promise, but the municipality hopes things will proceed.

“If you don’t have that foresight to work together, you lose,” said Gregory.

“That’s why, even though this isn’t our problem, we’ll continue to work with the province and the feds for what’s best for the people.”



The Farley Mowat: a success story for boat removals

SANDY COVE, NS – As two abandoned boats continue to sit on the east side of Sandy Cove, Bernadette Jordan reflects on how she successfully got Shelburne’s derelict Farley Mowat removed.

After hearing lots about abandoned vessels during her campaign, Jordan’s attention was drawn to the massive hull floating in the harbour.

She says she knew it had to go. 

“This boat became the poster child for abandoned vessels all over the country,” says Jordan.

She put forward a private members’ motion on the subject, which was passed unanimously, and has since grown into the Wrecked, Abandoned or Hazardous Vessels Act, announced October 30 by transport minister Marc Garneau.

She felt this was important since abandoning boats isn’t illegal – no recourse currently exists for those who dump their boats, unless the boat is a hazard or blocking a navigational path.

“If you have a transport truck, you don’t just leave it by the roadside,” says Jordan.

“These are boats people just leave, and walk away.”

Jordan added the Small Boats Program – a cost sharing agreement for the removal of smaller vessels – also exists.

“There are over 600 abandoned boats around this country. This needs to stop,” she says.


For more coverage on the Farley Mowat's removal, see The Coastguard.


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