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Sunken barge off Quadra Island frustrating neighbours

Multi-unit accommodation barge sank Sept. 3, now exuding debris
A barge moored in Gowlland Harbour that sunk Sept. 3. Photo courtesy Tyler Jansen.

An accommodation barge on Quadra Island is causing headaches for neighbours after it sank during the afternoon of Sept. 3.

The Quadra Fire Department responded to the scene around 3 p.m. Friday, but did not intervene because there was no fire or other immediate danger. The two-storey barge featuring a multi-unit accommodation structure is located in Gowlland Harbour.

Attempts to contact the owners of the barge were unsuccessful.

Quadra resident Tyler Jansen, who neighbours the area, said furniture and other debris have been drifting out of the sunken barge into the surrounding waters.

“It’s just sitting on the bottom,” he said. “I’m just looking out the window, watching some more furniture drift away from it.”

While Jansen and others have been cleaning up these items — some of which have weighed up to 50 pounds — any remaining in the water could pose a risk to boaters in the area, he said.

“If you hit that, it could put a hole in a fibreglass boat or tear a part off your engine.”

Jansen hopes the barge can be dealt with quickly.

“We’re maybe a month away from starting to get some of the storms,” he said. “That thing is just going to get blown apart, and it will be everywhere.”

But such operations are often complex and take time, said Adam Coolidge, chief diver and CEO of Cold Water Divers, a company performing marine salvage throughout Vancouver Island.

After removing the structure with an excavator, there would be an attempt to pressurize the barge to refloat it. But if refloating was unsuccessful or not an option due to the integrity of the structure, it would have to be dragged to shore and cut apart there, he said.

“The goal is to make it as light as possible first, and then somehow float it or move it somewhere and then get rid of it,” said Coolidge. “You probably can’t patch it either, because with barges like this, when you grind the old steel, you create more holes in it.”

Such jobs generally cost around $250,000, he said.

The barges that typically sink are older air-filled vessels that have become corroded, said Coolidge.

“It’s never the upper echelon barges that sink, it’s always the older ones that are completely rusty,” he said.

More information from Canadian Coast Guard to come.

READ ALSO: 14 people rescued from sinking charter boat near Nanaimo

Quadra Island man running from Campbell River to Nanaimo for alternative cancer care

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