Transport Canada bans non-essential boat traffic in flooded areas of British Columbia

UPDATE, 3 p.m. PT – Transport Canada confirmed in a statement to CBC News that as of Friday afternoon, non-essential marine traffic is prohibited in certain flooded areas of British Columbia.

A spokesperson said restrictions had been imposed to “keep boaters safe and areas clear for emergency response.”

The federal authority said exceptions would be allowed for emergency teams and for those seeking access to personal property.

“Volunteers who participate in the assistance, under the direction of a local authority, are also exempt,” the spokesperson said.

Areas of the province where non-essential shipping is prohibited are shown on this map. It encompasses most of the areas that have experienced significant flooding. (Transport Canada)


ORIGINAL STORY:

Kevin Estrada has been working all week organizing rescue operations and deliveries of supplies to the flooded area of ​​the Fraser Valley and he fears it may end today.

Estrada, project director with the Fraser River Angling Guides Association, said members of the nonprofit group sail more than 15 boats a day along the river, bringing people, pets and livestock to safety and delivering food and supplies to isolated people. services.

On Friday morning, Estrada received an email from the Office of Boating Safety, the division of Transport Canada responsible for overseeing regulations and enforcing policies for boaters, informing her that the federal agency will impose an “imminent restriction.” »On all non-essential boating products in flooded and evacuated areas.

According to the email, essential boats will be limited to municipal, Indigenous, provincial and federal government employees involved in emergency response.

Estrada, speaking to CBC News from his Chilliwack office where he was actively hosting the day’s missions, said the move could put people at risk.

“The government does not have the capacity to make the relief and food deliveries that we could do, so until they can, they have to keep us in play to help the community,” he said. he declares.

Kayakers and rescue personnel aboard a boat traverse the flood waters of the Sumas Prairie region in Abbotsford, British Columbia. service. (Ben Nelms / CBC)

Estrada said he was not yet sure how to apply for essential status with Transport Canada, but he has contacted his local MP and will do what he can to keep the members and their boats in the water.

Landon Gill, a member of the Angling Association, has been on the water all week. On Friday morning, he was taking Wendy Morrison by boat from where she was stuck in Chilliwack to Mission, BC, so she could get to an appointment for cancer treatment.

“It’s vital that I get there,” said a relieved Morrison. “How could I do this if it wasn’t for people like Landon?”

Landon Gill helps Wendy Morrison get off her boat at Mission Harbor Marina after transporting her safely from Chilliwack for an appointment for cancer treatment. Road closures and extreme flooding cut people off from essential services and supplies. (Gian-Paolo Mendoza / CBC)

Gill said he had moved around 20 people this week, either to get them out of harm’s way or to connect them to essential services like medical appointments because they are stranded. Collectively, he estimates that the members have already helped over 200 stranded people,

A guide on the river for eight years, he says he knows the waterways inside and out and that the idea that he is going to have to stop helping people “disturbs” him.

“We do it every day. We are still on the river, so there is no risk to our safety here. We are just trying to get people home and make them safe,” he said. he declares.

A transport truck and motorhome are pictured on Highway 1 after a major flooding in the Fraser Valley on Wednesday, November 17, 2021. (Ben Nelms / CBC)

According to the Office of Boating Safety, the order will be temporary and aims to keep boaters out of danger and areas clear so that emergency services can carry out response operations.

Estrada said the angling group, which does not receive any financial support from the government for its efforts, is helping all who contact and communicate primarily through social media.

“I just sent one of the guys another message to tell him that there are two cats in a tree that they need and that’s how we do it,” said Estrada, whose crews are now running against the clock.

Thousands of animals have died as a result of severe flooding that has devastated southern British Columbia’s farmland in recent days, the province confirmed on Tuesday.

According to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, 120 military personnel have been dispatched to Abbotsford, British Columbia, one of the hardest hit areas east of Vancouver, to help with flood recovery efforts.


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