A piling company hired by the province worked through the night on Thursday and into Friday morning to secure the former Queen of Sidney ferry and six other derelict ships moored at a Langley man’s waterfront property in Mission.
Bridges, power transmission lines and the Fort Langley house boating community along the Fraser River were at risk if the seven rundown ships were to be pulled loose by floodwaters and swept downstream.
B.C.’s Environment Minister, Terry Lake, intervened on Tuesday, issuing an emergency declaration to use special powers to deal with the improperly secured vessels, which include the dilapidated ferry.
A marine expert had determined the vessels were at risk of breaking free of their moorings due to their poor condition, combined with high river flows and flood debris that could put more strain on mooring lines.
The ferry and six other ships are owned by Aldergrove resident Gerald Tapp and his brother Bob. The ferry was recently filmed for an episode of Canadian Pickers. Inside the ferry, the owners have filled the various decks with classic cars.
“Five piles were driven on the forward part of the Queen of Sidney and on the other vessels ahead of her and on the river bank,” said Capt. Philip Nelson, who was contracted by the province to oversee the emergency job.
“The five piles driven onto the ferry and on the river banks are 70 to 100 feet in length and were driven 35 feet into the riverbed and through two hard layers of bed rock, so they are very secure,” said Nelson.
“We also attached steel mooring lines to the ferry, so I am very confident that the Queen of Sidney and the other vessels can withstand the rigors of this year’s freshet.”
Nelson said they put new lines on the other vessels to reinforce the mooring already there.
“So at this point in time we don’t see any difficulties with the Queen of Sidney,” said Nelson.
Environmental emergency response officer Ken Meeks said the one-in-40-year flood underway, the heavy debris already moving downstream and the additional vessels all tethered to the Queen of Sidney made the situation more dangerous than in past years.
The seven vessels together weigh more than 7,000 tonnes, he said.
Meeks said the province aims to recover costs of the emergency response from the Tapps.
They also pose an environmental risk because of the potential presence of hazardous materials, physical damage to downstream habitat and the risk of secondary spills if one of the derelict ships hit another vessel in the river.
River Forecast Centre head Dave Campbell said the Fraser River peaked early Friday with Mission gauge reading at 6.25 metres. Levels on the Fraser were expected to steadily decline over the long weekend.
The region has seen key infrastructure fail before due to high water on the Fraser.
Last summer, a BC Hydro transmission tower between Surrey and Coquitlam fell into the river, causing extensive power outages and forcing the closure of the Port Mann Bridge and other roads where high-voltage lines dangled dangerously close to cars.
— with files from Adrian McNair, Black Press