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Tug boat runs aground, underscoring need for dredging of Fraser River

The 24-metre tug boat Jose Narvaez ran aground in the waters between Steveston and Shady Island. - Jim Jones photo
The 24-metre tug boat Jose Narvaez ran aground in the waters between Steveston and Shady Island.
— image credit: Jim Jones photo

The 24-metre tug boat Jose Narvaez ran aground in the waters off Steveston around noon Saturday, an incident that points to the need for regular dredging of the area, according to Steveston Harbour Authority general manager Bob Baziuk.

The vessel listed to its port side in the shallow channel that runs between Steveston and Shady Island, after it came to a halt near the narrow island’s western-most edge.

There were no injuries and the vessel was undamaged, according to Lafarge Canada, which owns the boat.

Baziuk doesn’t know what precisely the tug boat struck, but things figure to only get worse as long as the channel isn’t dredged again. Some larger fishing boats are scheduled to come to the harbour in the next few months, he said, adding: “They’re not going to be able to access the harbour very soon.”

The harbour authority has been working with Delta-Richmond East MP Kerry-Lynne Findlay and various levels of government in hopes that funding will be made available for the needed dredging work, Baziuk said.

Recently Baziuk came upon another hazard that threatens the harbour, in the form of a tree, branches and all, that had become snagged in the boom at the eastern end of Shady Island.

He said debris coming from upriver figures to get only worse as the spring freshet builds, and said the existing protective measures for the harbour aren’t adequate.

“They’re not doing the job anymore,” Baziuk said.

Logs and other debris can get under the existing boom, and cause damage to the harbour’s dockside infrastructure as well as the boats moored there.

He’s suggesting that sand dredged from the channel be deposited alongside the weir that connects Steveston to the eastern tip of Shady Island, which would trap debris originating upriver. This would create an environmental zone that would serve to shelter the harbour.

Asked how much the dredging work might cost, Baziuk said: “If we’re going to do it right, to a standard people can live with, it might reach a million (dollars).”

Baziuk said it’s a constant battle to acquire funding for harbour maintenance, and understands why most politicians aren’t eager to divert money toward a project that doesn’t result in a media photo opportunity.

“You can’t see it (dredging work). It’s not like a bright new shiny dock.”

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