British Columbia

Megaquake would crumble BC Ferries terminals, says engineer Ray Hebden

Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast could be cut off from food in the event of a massive earthquake, unless BC Ferries upgrades its terminals, says Ray Hebden.

Vancouver Island, Sunshine Coast could be cut off from food after massive earthquake, says Hebden

BC Ferries vessel the Spirit of Vancouver Island passes between Galiano Island and Mayne Island while traveling from Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen, B.C., on Friday Aug. 26, 2011. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast could be cut off from food and emergency supplies in the event of a massive earthquake, unless BC Ferries upgrades its terminals, says the president of an engineering firm.

The island and the coastal communities are almost entirely dependent on BC Ferries as a transportation link to the mainland, said Ray Hebden of Hebden Engineering, who will give a public presentation on the issue on Wednesday. 

In the event of a mega earthquake, terminals such as the one at Tsawwassen, which is built on soft alluvial soil, will likely crumble, he said.

"Our normal supply of food, commodities that we depend on is interrupted, plus all of the materials and equipment and specialized personnel required to rebuild after an earthquake," he told On The Island.

B.C. 's emergency management agency (EMBC) is not adequately prepared for a catastrophic earthquake, according to the province's auditor general Russ Jones. (CBC)

"To respond to that, the first thing to do is get essential corridors opened again between population centres … all that all has to be done with equipment and forces that one can mobilize.

"If you can't get those forces to the island to respond, then you have double problem."

Are floating berths the answer?

Hebden is calling on BC Ferries to commission two new floating berths, similar to one built by his own company at Swartz Bay in 2006.

"Effectively the ground can shake and that mass stays inert," he said.

Hebden says he has presented the idea to BC Ferries, but was told it can't fund the proposal. BC Ferries was not immediately available for comment.

Hebden will be making a presentation, Earthquake Vulnerabilities of Ferry Links for Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities, at the North Saanich Municipal Hall on Wednesday at 7 p.m. PT.

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