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Artificial reef dispute creates deep divide in B.C.'s diving community

VANCOUVER - The Underwater Council of B.C. is plunging into the battle over creation of an artificial reef in the waters of Howe Sound.

The council has called a Feb. 17 meeting of the province's diving community to discuss the long-delayed plan to sink the decommissioned destroyer HMCS Annapolis in Halkett Bay, north of Vancouver.

The stripped-down, 111-metre hull was slated for sinking in 2010, two years after the Artificial Reef Society of B.C. bought it, but the project has been repeatedly postponed.

In postings on its website, the society lists problems ranging from requirements for further inspections of the vessel to the discovery of toxic chemicals in paint on board.

The ship is also the subject of a federal court lawsuit as the owner of WR Marine Services seeks a warrant to arrest the vessel as part payment of nearly $100,000 he says he's owed for stripping and mooring it.

The underwater council says its upcoming meeting in Vancouver will consider the owner's proposal for an alternative site for the sinking, a plan to complete the work and the council's motion of non-confidence in the Artificial Reef Society.

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