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Nanaimo-Alberni MP frets over Coast Guard cuts

Hovercraft may be fast, but they require a lot of maintenance and downtime, says MP James Lunney. - News file photo
Hovercraft may be fast, but they require a lot of maintenance and downtime, says MP James Lunney.
— image credit: News file photo

Nanaimo-Alberni MP James Lunney this week expanded on his concerns about  announced cuts to Coast Guard facilities on the B.C. West Coast.

In particular, Lunney expressed concern about the amalgamation of Marine Communications and Traffic Services (MCTS).

“Currently, MCTS Tofino monitors all traffic approaching the coast and exiting the Strait of Juan de Fuca, both American and Canadian,” Lunney said this week. “This is one of the busiest marine traffic lanes in North America.

The MCTS proposal would leave just two centres monitoring 27,000 kilometres of B.C. coast from Sidney on Vancouver Island and Prince Rupert on the North Coast.”

By contrast, he  continued, Atlantic Canada would retain five such centres to cover 11,400 kilometres of coastline.

He said the amalgamation of services could lead to a lack of redundancy when it is needed.

“Minor quakes happen regularly and geologists tell us a major one is a certainty. In 2004, Seattle monitoring shut down after such a quake and traffic was monitored by Canadian facilities. However, he said, it could just as easily have been Sidney that shut down.

“In my view, Prince Rupert is too remote and too vulnerable to its own challenges to serve as the sole backup for Sidney, even with upgrades,” Lunney said.

In addition, he said weather reports from MCTS Tofino and Comox are part of the lighthouse weather circuit that reports seven times every day to Environment Canada, reports that local mariners and aviators rely on every day.

He noted as well that he has deep concerns about the impending closure of the Coast Guard station in Kitsilano in Vancouver, stressing his doubt that the station in Richmond can provide adequate coverage for English Bay — one of the busiest waterways on the coast, along with Richmond and the airport.

“Experience with hovercraft in coastal B.C. would tell us they are extremely well suited to the mud flats and shallow water off Sea Island, serving the airport vicinity,” he said.

“However, experience to date would indicate such craft are high maintenance, meaning much of the year only one of two craft is likely to be available.

“It’s not reasonable to expect hovercraft to be able to cover the highly-utilized English Bay area in addition to its Richmond and airport mandate.”

Lunney said he has met with authorities in Ottawa to express his concerns, noting he is far from alone in his concern.

“I trust the public uproar has underscored my concerns and I remain hopeful that a more promising solution can be embraced for coastal B.C.,” he said.

 

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