Build­ings on Bac­calieu Is­land to be de­mol­ished

Ten­der put out for de­mo­li­tion project

The Compass - - Front Page - BY CHRIS LEWIS

Bac­calieu Is­land may be get­ting a bit of a makeover in the near fu­ture.

Orig­i­nally is­sued in Au­gust of this year, a 48-page project re­port pre­pared by the De­part­ment of Fish­eries and Oceans, Real Prop­erty Safety and Se­cu­rity, out­lines the goals of a de­mo­li­tion project for the Bac­calieu Is­land light­sta­tion site, which aims to de­mol­ish sur­plus in­fra­struc­ture in the area.

In the project de­scrip­tion, the doc­u­ment out­lines a pro­posal to clean up the is­land, re­mov­ing any pos­si­ble health haz­ards the in­fra­struc­ture on the is­land may pose to both DFO em­ploy­ees, as well as vis­i­tors to the site.

“There is a level of en­vi­ron­men­tal risk due to the pres­ence

of haz­ardous ma­te­ri­als as well as the fact that the Bac­calieu Is­lands pro­vide habi­tat for a va­ri­ety of mi­gra­tory birds,” the doc­u­ment states.

The cleanup is said to in­volve the re­moval of sur­plus in­fra­struc­ture that ex­ists on the is­land.

Bac­calieu Is­land is lo­cated sev­eral kilo­me­tres off the coast of Bay de Verde. Although no longer in­hab­ited, Bac­calieu Is­land once housed two brick light­houses stand­ing at ap­prox­i­mately 11-me­tres.

Today, both light­houses are re­in­forced by iron walls, and are au­to­mated, rather than man­ual, as was the case for about a cen­tury, be­gin­ning with the build­ings’ orig­i­nal con­struc­tion in 1858.

Since the is­land has long been un­in­hab­ited, pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion was deemed un­nec­es­sary.

Richard Walsh is a for­mer res­i­dent of Bay de Verde, who pays close at­ten­tion to the go­ings on in the com­mu­nity with hopes of keep­ing res­i­dents in­formed through his Face­book page, Vin­tage Bay de Verde, where he shares sto­ries and pho­tos of the com­mu­nity from both the past and the present.

Walsh posted a se­ries of videos and pho­tos fol­low­ing his dis­cov­ery of the ten­der doc­u­ment. In an in­ter­view with The Com­pass, Walsh said he felt no ill will to­ward gov­ern­ment for their de­ci­sion to de­mol­ish the old build­ings.

“Is it dis­ap­point­ing? Yes, of course,” said Walsh. “But it’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that th­ese struc­tures have not been in use for quite some time now. They hold his­tor­i­cal value, cer­tainly, but can also be haz­ardous to any­one who makes a trip out to Bac­calieu Is­land. The build­ings are old, di­lap­i­dated, and there’s no doubt there are some health haz­ards there, such as as­bestos.”

Bac­calieu Is­land is not eas­ily vis­ited, how­ever. Steep cliffs serve as bar­ri­ers to any­one wish­ing to make the jour­ney to the five-square-kilo­me­tre is­land via boat, and those that do man­age to scale the cliffs will still be met with un­pre­dictable ter­rain once on the is­land.

The doc­u­ment states, how­ever, that work­ers will be flown to the site via he­li­copter, and will not need to worry about sea travel.

“I be­lieve that, although a dis­ap­point­ing one, this de­ci­sion came as a means to pro­tect gov­ern­ment from fu­ture li­a­bil­ity is­sues,” said Walsh. “That makes sense to me, be­cause even though it can be dif­fi­cult to get out there, it’s not im­pos­si­ble, and peo­ple are go­ing to do it. If some­one gets there and de­cides to ex­plore th­ese old build­ings, and gets hurt, then who’s go­ing to get the blame? The gov­ern­ment.”

The ten­der was put out in Au­gust of 2017, and states that work is ex­pected to com­mence in the fis­cal year of 2017-2018.

Bac­calieu Is­land was orig­i­nally home to sev­eral fam­i­lies, most no­tably the Ryan fam­ily, who helped main­tain and op­er­ate the light­houses in the late 1800s to early 1900s.

The De­part­ment of Fish­eries and Oceans has de­mo­li­tion work planned for Bac­calieu Is­land.

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