Coast Guard says removal of sunken barge near Campbell River will cost $4.7 million

The Canadian Coast Guard says it is ready to remove a large barge that sank near Campbell River in February and raised environmental concerns, especially given the amount of fuel on board.

The Princess trailer, a 98-meter-long barge, is currently moored near the old Elk Falls Mill in Duncan Bay and will be dismantled from next week, the Coast Guard said Thursday.

It says disposal costs total $4.7 million, and because Canada applies the “polluter pays” principle, the polluter is responsible for the costs of environmental damage.

The Coast Guard said a helicopter pilot flying over the area on Feb. 14 first reported the sunken barge. Since then, teams have evacuated 89,000 liters of oil and oily water.

The barge, built in 1944 for the US Navy, later supported logging operations, has a helicopter deck and, due to its condition, was deemed to be at ‘high risk of polluting the marine environment”, according to the coast guard.

In March, people working in the local tourism industry, including Leigh Nelson, vice president of the Campbell River Association of Tour Operators, said they were monitoring the barge.

In a interview with CHEK NewsNelson feared that any fuel leaks would damage wildlife in the area, which has an impact on how whale watching companies and fishing charters do business.

“I know we also had a pod of about 20 or more orcas that swam through here the other day as the boat was leaking,” Nelson said in March.

Crews initially removed around 34,000 liters of petrol, diesel and jet fuel from onboard tanks, but dangerous spaces below deck prevented them from accessing certain areas due to safety concerns.

The Coast Guard, in coordination with Wei Wai Kum First Nation, said it would maintain the boom around the barge and oversee salvage operations, engaging AMIX/Marine Recycling Corporation to remove any remaining fuel on board.

The Trailer Princess is currently moored in Duncan Bay, north of Campbell River, British Columbia (Photo: Canadian Coast Guard)

With files by Dean Soltz

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