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Barge sinks in winter storm

Boom secures trailer that broke loose
Laura Walz

Plans are underway to raise a barge that sank on Christmas Eve during a fierce winter storm.

The concrete barge was tied up at a dock at the Catalyst Paper Corporation mill site. It had two levels of trailers on it and had been used as a floating logging camp.

Steve Hunter, Catalyst’s controller, handles the land management portfolio. He said Catalyst leases a small section of its property on the water to JRK Holdings Ltd. The barge, which is owned by another company, was moored at the site. “It simply sank to the bottom with the high winds on December 24,” he said.

One of the trailers on the barge broke loose and is now secured on shore inside a boom, said Hunter. “It’s a security plan, until these trailers are raised,” he said. “My mandate is to make sure that it’s done properly and respectful of the environment.”

The immediate concern when the barge sank was about pollution, Hunter said. “There is no pollution and never has been,” he said. “There wasn’t a drop of oil or anything on it. It was clean.”

John Spick is a principle in the company that is leasing the area from Catalyst. He said the barge was in “bad repair and during the storm, it started taking on water and went down.”

The barge sits in about 12 feet of water at low tide, Spick said. “We’ve been dealing with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans on coming up with a plan to clean up the debris and dispose of it,” he said.

The company that owns the barge hasn’t seen it, Spick also said. “We’re just going through the legal procedures now of trying to get them to take responsibility for it,” he said. “If that doesn’t happen, then it devolves to us.”

Spick said he is also dealing with the Canadian Coast Guard and Transport Canada. “We have to go through the correct process,” he said. “You can’t just all of a sudden jump down on the beach with an excavator and start cleaning stuff up without having DFO approval on it.”

Sau Sau Liu, a Transport Canada spokesperson, said the agency is assessing the incident and pursing ownership information. “Currently the barge is not an obstruction to navigation, nor does it pose any pollution concerns,” she said. “The sunken barge is tied up in a private water lot and is therefore considered a private matter between the barge owner and the owner of the water lot. If the barge becomes an obstruction to navigation or poses any environmental concerns, Transport Canada will take appropriate action.”

The Navigable Waters Protection Act allows Transport Canada to order an owner to adequately mark and/or remove an anchored/sunken vessel that is obstructing navigation, Liu added. “Failure to respond means Transport Canada may mark or remove the obstruction and recover costs from the owner. In the past, Transport Canada has removed vessels that were obstructing navigation and had the owners cover the costs of the removal.”