Retired vessels could break free and float down Fraser River flood waters - InfoNews

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Retired vessels could break free and float down Fraser River flood waters

June 28, 2012 - 7:00 AM

VANCOUVER - A group of derelict vessels in danger of making an unscheduled voyage down the fast-flowing flood waters of British Columbia's Fraser River has authorities concerned about a possible disaster.

The lower part of the Fraser River is expected to crest within the coming week, bringing strong currents potentially capable of prying any of two-dozen or so vessels loose from their moorings.

Some of the vessels stretch upwards of 100 metres in length, with the entire convoy weighing 7,000 tonnes.

The ships are tethered together at the community of Silverdale, just west of Mission, B.C.

Among them is the retired 102-metre Queen of Sidney, as well as a former B.C. Ferry.

An emergency response officer with the provincial Environment Ministry said a recent Master Mariner's survey found the ferry's moorings weren't sufficient to hold it.

"It's pretty bad," said Ryan Fuller. "It's a bit of a mess down here, I'll put it that way."

If the ships were to come loose, they could damage a host of infrastructure including bridges or cause hazardous material leaks.

Options to ensure the vessels don't break free include pile driving in more anchor points for the ships, changing their moorings and replacing lines.

"The ministry has been looking to get qualified professionals in to make sure it's properly secured and it's not going to cause an issue for any of the downstream infrastructure," said Fuller.

Another solution could be tying lines from the boats to the shoreline to prevent them from swaying, he added.

The ministry said late Wednesday that Fraser River Pile and Dredge has been contracted to helped secure the flotilla.

Transport Canada spokeswoman Jillian Glover said if the boats become a navigational hazard, it will be their task to coral them.

But Transport Canada is taking measures to avoid that scenario altogether, she said.

"In this particular case we have advised the owners to take action to ensure the vessels are secure immediately," said Glover.

She said if the vessels are not properly shored up, Transport Canada will secure them and bill the cost to the owners.

The agency has also made arrangements for a towing vessel to be on site, in case the boats break loose.

The Fraser River is expected to hit its highest levels in 40 years this weekend, starting later Thursday or Friday.

Dave Campbell, head of the BC River Forecast Centre, said the floodwaters will be severe, but likely not rise as high as more recent peaks.

"In terms of specifics, I think we're not likely to see worse than we saw before it's going to be similar or a little below," said Campbell.

"Certainly the Mission gauge we're looking at being similar or ten centimetres or so below what we saw last weekend."

Rapidly melting snow pack and heavy rainfall this summer have cause major flooding across B.C.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2012
The Canadian Press

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