March 7, 2000: A respected marine biologist's new baseline study indicates that BC Ferries' controversial Pacificat fast ferries are a likely cause of damage observed in numerous species of sensitive marine life on the shores of Bowen Island, BC.
The professional study was initiated by Ferry CURE, the grassroots coalition of Bowen Island ferry users, which co-sponsored the research with the Islands Trust. It was designed to provide a base for assessing the composition and abundance of intertidal animals and seaweed along a shoreline that receives the wake wash of the new high-speed catamaran ferries operating between West Vancouver's Horseshoe Bay and Nanaimo on Vancouver Island.
But Dr. Bill Austin,the study's author, says his team of researchers has already noted damaging effects that could well be attributed to the fast ferries: “The absence or near-absence of most mobile species [such as periwinkles and limpets], and the poor condition of a wave-exposure indicator species (sugar kelp) on the south-facing Fairweather and Arbutus Bay rock shores strongly suggests some unnatural impact. The waves generated by Pacificat ferries are a prime candidate as a causative agent.”
Dr. Austin, a Phd who is executive director of the Marine Ecology Station at Cowichan Bay, BC, is a consultant to governments, corporations and individuals on baseline programs for marine habitats. Ferry CURE commissioned him to make a study along the Bowen shoreline last summer. His full report is available on the community-based coalition's website (see address below).
He makes several concrete recommendations for following up his study, including further research this August at the sites his team studied. Ferry CURE has approached the Islands Trust to help fund the implementation of the recommended action, says Elbert (Bert) Paul, a director of the coalition.
Paul points out that Dr. Austin's study, with its troubling findings, could be a herald of the conclusions that might well be contained in the BC Ferry Corporation's own wake wash environmental review, due to be released later this month. Field experts in wake wash and marine geology and geomorphology have been preparing the review at an estimated cost of $280,000.
BC Ferries' terms of reference for this project acknowledged that a few incidents “where personal safety was at risk have been reported and some concerns have been expressed on the wake wash impact on the shoreline geology and marine life.”
Among those Bowen Island residents complaining to the ferry corporation are Ross and Trisha Beaty, whose six-year-old daughter and a friend were nearly swept out to sea last summer by a sudden fast-ferry swell. During the winter, Ross Beaty reports in a letter to BC FerriesÕ president, Bob Lingwood, such powerful, long-lasting swells have eroded their beach, undercut their low bank and threatened their property with landslides from constant erosion.
Their letter concludes: “The sooner the government and the ferry corporation acknowledge the real cost of the Pacificat ferries, both financially and environmentally, the quicker the damage can be stopped, despite the political fallout and dashing of dreams of the ferry proponents.”
For further information, please contact: Elbert Paul (Director, 604-947-9130) or Richard Goth (President 604-947-9703)
email for both is email@example.com