Farmers: reject Merville water bottling operation

Farmers: reject Merville water bottling operation

PHOTO: Merville area residents and others attend a public forum last week about the water bottling proposal

The Mid-Island Farmer’s Institute asks the CVRD to decline a rezoning application and to urge the B.C. government to rescind a water licence for a bottling operation in the Merville area

 

The Mid-Island Farmers Institute has asked the Comox Valley Regional District board to reject a water bottling facility on Sackville Road in Merville.

The farmers also want the regional district to ask the Ministry of Forestry, Land, Natural Resources, Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD) to rescind the water licence granted to the Sackville Road property owners, Christopher MacKenzie and Regula Heynck.

The regional district didn’t issue the water licence and has no authority to rescind it. But the CVRD can deny a rezoning application that is necessary to allow water bottling as a principal use on the property.

The provincial agency approved the controversial groundwater licence for a water extraction and bottling operation on a two hectare property in the Merville area despite strong objections from the CVRD and the K’omoks First Nation.

“We believe that this licence was issued without a thorough understanding of the aquifer and the impact that water extraction would have on neighbouring farms and home sites,” board members of the farmers organization wrote in a letter to the regional district board of directors.

“The rezoning application is not in line with the CVRD’s own Official Community Plan and will negatively impact neighbours and road infrastructure,” they said. “The fact that the licence was granted despite objections from the CVRD , objections from the K’omoks First Nation, and the lack of any public consultation brings serious doubt to the legitimacy of such a decision and the operation must not be allowed to go forward.”

FURTHER READING: Water bottling project raises aquifer concerns

MacKenzie told a CVRD committee last month that he originally drilled a well for domestic purposes. But after his wife, Regula Heynck, insisted on testing and discovering the water had high pH levels (alkaline), the couple envisioned a viable family business.

MacKenzie claimed the alkaline water has health benefits and is “something the community needs … it’s really unique”

But farmers in the Merville area believe the bottling facility would draw too much water from the aquifer and affect their crop production. The licence allows MacKenzie/Heynck to extract 10,000 litres per day or 3.65 million litres per year.

The Mid-Island Farmer’s Institute wants the Ministry of FLNRORD to rescind the licence and “declare a moratorium on the issuance of water bottling licences on BC’s aquifers until a full review is conducted on the current and future demand for this water from BC’s farmers.”

The farmers also want the CVRD to “apply for a Water Reservation over the aquifer to ensure that the water is only used for Comox Valley community needs,” which could only be lifted if “the CVRD’s Agriculture Watershed Public Advisory Committee has determined that there is sufficient water for current and future needs of the CVRD community.”

The next CVRD board meeting is Tuesday, April 24. But the matter probably won’t be addressed again until the Electoral Services Committee, which makes recommendations to the board on rural rezoning applications, meets on May 14.

 

Supreme Court rules in favor of Mack Laing Heritage Society

Supreme Court rules in favor of Mack Laing Heritage Society

The Mack Laing Heritage Society has won a major legal battle to force the Town of Comox to honor trust agreements with the famous naturalist

 

AB.C. Supreme Court judge has facilitated an agreement so the Mack Laing Heritage Society can present its evidence in a case that will decide the future of the famous ornithologist’s iconic home and clarify the status of his trust agreements.

In a hearing in Nanaimo this week (April 17), Justice Douglas W. Thompson asked lawyers for the town and the B.C. Attorney General’s office why they objected to the court hearing the “armful of evidence” submitted by the Mack Laing Heritage Society (MLHS).

Justice Thompson then pointedly asked the Attorney General’s representative how she could fulfill her obligations as a “defender of public trusts” without all the information in the case.

And he asked the town’s lawyer, of the Vancouver-bassed Young Anderson law firm, what questions the town did not want MLHS to ask in court.

By the end of the five-hour court session, the town’s lawyer and the AG’s office had agreed to grant intervenor status to the MLHS with “no restrictions whatsoever” on the evidence the society can introduce into the proceedings, which will be held in late May.

It was a major win for the MLHS and a defeat in round one for the Town of Comox.

FURTHER READING: Town of Comox confesses: we misspent Laing’s money; Link to all Shakesides stories

The town has petitioned the court to vary the terms of the Mack Laing trusts — there are three — in order to demolish Laing’s heritage home, which he willed to the town, and use the money Laing also left for purposes other than those the acclaimed naturalists intended.

The MLHS had sought official standing in the case. “Standing” meant that the society could introduce nine affidavits totally about 500 pages of evidence that purport to negate the basis of the town’s petition, and, if successful, could have recovered its legal costs from the town.

Local builder Bunker Killam, who rented Shakesides for the first nine years after Laing’s death, sets up croquet in the front yard. Killam said the house was in good condition while he lived there.

By granting the MLHS intervenor status with “no restrictions,” Justice Thompson has cleared the way for the court to consider all of the society’s evidence. But if MLHS succeeds in defeating the town’s petition, it will not be able recover its court costs.

MLHS President J-Kris Nielsen said, “”Had we been offered this deal months ago, we would gladly have taken it. All we wanted was the chance to present the evidence we have collected from a wide array of sources and individuals, together with the historical facts from these sources, seen through different eyes, plus ask questions in order to get answers from town officials.

“The justice recognized the value of these different documents early, and made it clear that he did not see why this information should not be at the disposal of the court?,” Nielsen said. “Now our 11 affidavits and 120 or so exhibits are fully vested in the upcoming Supreme Court Hearing.”

According to Nielsen, the “genius of Justice Thompson” showed up in the last half hour of the April 17 court session, when he maneuvered the proceedings around with “carrot and stick tactics” to bring about a conclusion, surely saving a full day of court time from playing out.

“It was all done with one question (to the Town of Comox and the AG representative),” Nielsen said. “What question is it you want the society NOT to ask?”

Asked if he cared to comment on the outcome of the court session, Comox Mayor Paul Ives said, “Not really — the matter has been adjourned to the week of May 28 in Nanaimo.”

There could still be a mediated settlement in the case if the town decides to cap its incurred legal expenses — speculated to be heading toward $75,000.

And it’s still unclear whether the MLHS, or other community organizations or individuals, could file civil lawsuits against the town for breaches of trust.

Background of the case

The town has petitioned the court, under a specific section of the Community Charter, to vary the “terms applicable to money held in trust if a municipal council considers the terms or trust to no longer be in the best interests of the municipality.”

MLHS wants the court to see painstakingly detail how the town has misspent Laing’s money, disregarded the intention of his three trusts over a 36-year period and misstated facts to the court corroborated by its own documents.

The town passed a resolution 32 days after Laing’s death in February of 1982 to rent Shakesides and several months later, in August, started spending the rent money and interest earned on Laing’s cash gift on items beyond the scope of the trust agreements.

One pressing issue is whether the town can demolish Laing’s home, which he gave to the Comox community for the purpose of establishing a natural history museum.

But MLHS also wants the court to order a forensic audit of the Laing trusts.

MLHS contends the town has misstated the amount of cash Laing left them after his death in February of 1982 and that the trust today should be worth up to nearly $500,000.

Can Shakesides be restored?

According to Guerdon “Bunker” Killam, a developer and home builder, who lived in Shakesides for nine years, from 1982 to 1990, the house was in good condition when he moved in and he continued to improve it during his tenure.

Killam said Shakesides is “a very well built small house in excellent condition.”

But during the town’s 36-year stewardship, the house’s conditions has declined. The town even rejected an offer by MLHS to provide free labor to install a waterproof covering over the leaking roof until the court is settled.

Meanwhile, a number of Comox Valley businesses have added their names to the list of those willing to donate time and/or services to renovate Shakesides.

According to Gordon Olson, a friend of Laing in his latter years, Lacasse Construction has committed to donating some work to restoring the house. Comox Valley architect Tom Dishlevoy will donate some design work, and Three Oaks Flooring will donate labor for refinishing the house’s wood floors.

Masonry trades people and window specialists have also made commitments.

 

 

Managing urban deer is a local problem, not a provincial one

Managing urban deer is a local problem, not a provincial one

Provincial ministry confirms: province has no legal responsibility for managing urban deer. Comox Valley elected officials ignore problem while Oak Bay and Haida Gwaii take action

 

[dropcap}Q[/dropcap]uestion: What do the City of Oak Bay and the islands of Haida Gwaii NOT have in common with the Comox Valley?

Answer: They have recognized the problems caused by an excessive quantity of deer and have taken actions to reduce their deer populations.

The Comox Valley has done nothing.

Meanwhile, the federal government will spend $5.7 million over the next three years on a program that will eradicate deer from six islands in Haida Gwaii, and
Oak Bay will spend $40,000 on an experimental program to put some of its urban deer on birth control.

But Comox Valley governments have allowed their urban deer populations to expand, partly because elected officials cling to the erroneous notion that managing the animals is a provincial responsibility.

A Comox Valley Regional District representative has told Decafnation that deer are a provincial problem, and Comox Mayor Paul Ives repeated this misinformation on Facebook recently.

So Decafnation contacted the Ministry of Forest, Lands and Resource Operations and Rural Development. Here’s what they said:

“According to section 2 (1) and 2 (5) of the Wildlife Act, all wildlife is owned by the government, but no right of action or compensation exists against the province for death, personal injury or property damage,” a ministry representative wrote via email.

“So, while the province owns the deer, it has no legal responsibility for managing urban deer populations toward objectives established by local governments.”

But the province encourages local governments to develop detailed deer management plans, and it partners with local governments to facilitate and develop socially acceptable urban deer management solutions.

FURTHER READING: Ottawa spends $5.7 to eradicate deer in Haida Gwii; Oak Bay to issue deer contraceptives

If any Comox Valley municipality developed a deer management strategy the province would provide technical advice, regulatory authority, necessary permits, specialized equipment and other management tools.

And, in 2016, B.C. launched an urban deer management program, which provides $100,000 each year to help fund community-based urban deer management projects.

The funding follows up on the province’s pledge – made at the 2015 Union of BC Municipalities annual convention – to set aside annual funding for urban deer mitigation. The province is helping to fund Oak Bay’s program.

That makes it clear that local governments must initiate strategies to manage its deer populations, and the province will help with resources and funding.

So why are Comox Valley governments ignoring this problem?

Gardeners lose thousands of dollars worth of plants to the voraciously hungry deers, and spend thousands more on fencing and other methods to deter them. Farmers have lost crops. Motorists have collided with deer.

Deer attract dangerous animals. Deer make up about 95 percent of a cougar’s diet, and are lured into the urban area by the easy prey of unwary deer. The area conservation officer reports frequent cougar sightings in the Valley.

Letting the deer population go unchecked raises the risk of spreading Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses. While reported cases of Lyme disease are not as prevalent here as in the Lower Mainland and other areas, a high density of deer means more ticks and a greater risk.

What Oak Bay is doing

The city recently put radio collars on 20 does to track their movements and better understand the deer population. The next step is to administer an immunocontraceptive vaccine, Zonastat-D, either by hand or via a darting rifle.

While the current version of the drug remains effective for up to 22 months, scientists are working on a vaccine that would work for up to seven years.

What’s going on in Haida Gwaii

Deer were introduced to the Haida Gwaii archipelago in 1880 by the B.C. Game Commission. They have since spread to all of the region’s 200 islands.

“The deer don’t have any predators so there’s no real control for their hyper abundance and they’re beginning to damage the ecosystem in an almost irreparable way,” a Parks Canada resource management technical told CBC news.

Professional sharpshooters have been hired to kill the deer and train young islanders to assist in the eradication.

The deer meat will be distributed for hot lunch programs throughout Haida Gwaii.

Who to call

If individual deer are an immediate threat to human safety, the Conservation Officer Service will respond. These instances should be reported to the RAPP line (Report All Poachers and Polluters) 1-877-952-7277 (RAPP) or #7277 on the TELUS Mobility Network.

To encourage local governments to develop deer management programs, call Comox Town Hall (339-2202) , Courtenay City Hall (334-4441) or the Comox Valley Regional District (334-6000).

 

Mayor criticizes the focus of mayoral candidates

Mayor criticizes the focus of mayoral candidates

Mayor Larry Jangula says the candidates’ focus on their political careers, not city business, has caused discord and promoted electioneering

 

Courtenay Mayor Larry Jangula has accused the three incumbent council members seeking to replace him of “electioneering” during City Council meetings.

Jangula says Erik Eriksson, David Frisch and Bob Wells should focus on city business, not their political careers.

“I have already seen signs of electioneering at our council meetings and it is causing a distraction,” Jangula told Decafnation in a written statement.

“Not to mention that it is most unfortunate that these councillors are focusing on their political careers and not on city business, especially at this time of year when important matters like budgets, taxes and service fees are being decided,” he said.

It’s unusual for incumbent council members to challenge a sitting mayor, unless decisions or personalities have caused a major disagreement. It’s open season, however, if the incumbent mayor is retiring.

But Jangula says he hasn’t decided whether to seek re-election.

“My energies are being focused on the issues that impact the community and the taxpayers,” he said. “I will decide at a more appropriate time if I will be seeking re-election and I have no further comment on this matter at this time.”

No obvious disagreement has occurred, although some council members have privately criticized Jangula’s handling of meetings, especially citizen presentations. Jangula got embroiled in a social media firestorm last year over an email reply to a citizen that was widely regarded as condescending and sarcastic.

It’s more likely the three candidates suspect Jangula will step down and are jostling early to build support.

“I am very disappointed that members of my council have decided to start their campaigns in March, a full eight months before the Oct. 20, 2018 municipal election,” Jangula said. “One of the mayoralty candidates, Erik Eriksson, actually started last October, a full year prior to the election.

But Eriksson says the long lead time gives voters a chance to evaluate candidates.

“I announced my intention to run for mayor one year ahead of the election for two reasons,” he told Decafnation. “One is to give people lots of time to evaluate my readiness to serve as mayor.

“The other reason (as I’ve been telling people on the doorstep) is there’s a lot of doors to knock on. ”

Jangula also criticized council members not running for mayor but who are already supporting a colleague.

“I am very concerned when certain councillors are publicly endorsing other councillors for the position of mayor, which is already causing disharmony and discord at our council table,” he said.

Council member Doug Hillan last week announced his support for David Frisch’s campaign.

Frisch, however, rejects the mayor’s criticisms, and says he is focused on city business.

“I have been working for changes to improve housing affordability, transportation options, and downtown vitalization since I was first elected 3 1/2 years ago,” he said. “My focus on council remains the same and my run for mayor echos these principles.”

In regards to council member’s distractions, Frisch said it’s possible that his positions are gaining more attention now, and “that bothers other members of council.”

“But disagreement is nothing new. In fact, disagreement is the foundation of a full discussion and council is the place where issues are debated and, ultimately, decisions are made,” he said. “I look forward to being a leader who understands this and doesn’t shy away from difficult issues or attempt to silence or discourage views which oppose my own.”

Councillors Mano Theos and Rebecca Lennox have not responded to Decafnation’s enquiries about which of the three mayoralty candidates they might support.

Wells said his candidacy for mayor has not distracted him from making effective decisions.

“I can only speak to my focus on getting things done,” he said. “I respect the mayor and city councillors and I think we work well as a council even when we disagree.”

Wells told Decafnation that since being elected in 2014, he has “worked hard to learn as much as I could to make the best decisions possible and will continue to do so.”

“I have not found announcing my candidacy for mayor to be a distraction for me to make effective decisions,” he said. “As someone that loves budgets this is my favourite time of year, and I’m compelled to be prepared and engaged at all meetings.”

FURTHER READING: Erik Eriksson’s website; David Frisch’s website; Bob Wells website

 

 

North Island takes a step closer to new advanced recycling technologies

North Island takes a step closer to new advanced recycling technologies

PHOTO: Peter Vinall, president and co-founder of Sustane Technologies, says the company can convert solid waste that arrives at a landfill into biofuel, through a process that generates zero emissions. Photo courtesy of The Chronicle Herald

 

Comox Strathcona regional districts take a step closer to new advanced recycling technologies, fewer greenhouse gas emissions and longer landfill life

 

Using valuable land to bury our garbage is 17th Century thinking,” according to Charlie Cornfield, a Campbell River member of the Comox Strathcona Waste Management Board’s (CSWM) special committee investigating new technologies.

Cornfield made the comment April 5 in support of a series of motions to move the regional district closer to adopting advanced recycling methods that could extend the life of landfills and turn the community’s waste into sources of energy.

The disposition of household and commercial garbage has become a major problem for municipalities around the world, and B.C.’s coastal areas are not immune.

Powell River and the Cowichan Valley already ship their municipal waste by barge to private landfills in Washington state at exorbitant expense.

The Comox Strathcona region must spend about $28 million every six to seven years to open, operate and close up new landfill sites, a frequency that will escalate when the Campbell River landfill closes in 2023 and its waste is trucked to Pigeon Lake. That’s a cost to taxpayers of more than $300,000 per month.

“We can’t afford it (landfills) anymore,” Cornfield said.

FURTHER READING: Should the north Island bury its garbage, or convert it to energy?

New technologies that employ advanced recycling methods could extend the life of CSWM landfill at Pigeon Lake, near Cumberland by 69 to 160 years, while releasing significantly fewer greenhouse gas emissions, according to consultants employed by the regional district.

The CSWM committee voted unanimously this week to invite two technology companies to meet with the board. The two, Sustane Technologies and Waste Treatment Technologies, were the leading contenders from a longer list of responders to a 2017 Request For Information for waste-to-energy technologies.

The committee also voted to ask the Ministry of Environment to explain provincial regulations that appear to restrict when local governments can adopt waste-to-energy solutions.

And the committee also directed staff to monitor the progress of Sustane Technologies first Canadian operation in Nova Scotia and its eight-year-old facility in Spain.

The committee’s actions rejected a recommendation by Chief Administration Officer Russell Dyson to put off further investigation of alternate waste disposal technologies until 2022, when a 10-year update of the solid waste management plan is due.

But there are still outstanding issues.

The 70 percent rule

Ministry of Environment regulations seem to require that local governments achieve a 70 percent diversion rate before getting provincial approval to explore waste-to-energy technologies.

That might mean that 70 percent of all waste arriving at Pigeon Lake from households and commercial sources must be reduced, recycled or reused, but the definitions and details of how the 70 percent figure is calculated are unclear.

The Comox Strathcona operation currently diverts 48 percent of waste, but when the organics composting facility opens next year in Campbell River, that number will jump to nearly 60 percent.

A representative of Morrison Hershfield, a consulting engineering firm hired to assess various new waste disposal technologies, said the ministry’s number “isn’t set in stone.” He said it’s examined on a case-by-case basis.

He said if the regional districts have a plan and is making a good effort toward diverting 70 percent of waste, a move toward newer technologies is likely to get a favorable response from the ministry.

Cornfield believes the 70 percent number was pulled “out of thin air.”

“Where did the 70 percent come from?” Cornfield said. “Our role as a board, as politicians, is to make the case that we’re close enough to move forward.”

Cornfield pointed out that the CSWM operation diverts more than double many other regional districts and that in many countries of the world, such as the U.K., there are no landfills at all.

Buying garbage, he said is a “horrible waste of an asset” that can be reused as energy.

Cost versus greenhouse gases

The Morrison Hershfield consulting study and detailed cost analysis by Comox Valley Regional District staff concluded that “at this time” it is less expensive to continue buying garbage in landfills.

The newer technologies could cost double or triple the amount per tonne spent on landfilling.

The same report, which compared three different WTE technologies, also concluded that if Comox and Strathcona regional districts continue to bury their garbage in the Pigeon Lake landfill, we will produce 821,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) over the next 40-year period.

The worst (highest) CO2e emissions from any of the three reviewed WTE technologies was only 179,000 tonnes.

And one of the technologies would achieve a net reduction of CO2e by -777,000 tonnes. Yes, a minus number, or a positive CO2e impact.

FURTHER READING: WTE discussion missed the GNG point

In other words, by implementing WTE technology, the entire north Island could reduce its greenhouse gas emissions from solid waste by at least 80 percent, and possibly by roughly 200 percent.

Landfills are North America’s third largest source of methane, which is 25 times more detrimental to the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.

Risks of the leading edge

The least expensive and most environment-friendly new technology studied was proposed by Sustane Technologies.

Sustane uses an advanced recycling processes that include production of crude oil from all forms of plastic, which it refines into diesel oil fuel pellets. The company builds a mini-refinery onsite.

The problem is that Sustane’s technology, while lauded by scientists, has not been proven, according to Morrison Hershfield. Their longest-running plant in Spain has not consistently operated at a commercial level over eight years. And the first Canadian facility in Chester, N.S. is not yet operational.

The consultant said Sustane’s technology is interesting and unique, but is still experimental.

“It will mature, but it’s not yet proven,” he said.

FURTHER READING: Garbage bags into fuel

But Cornfield said whether its proven or not doesn’t scare him.

“It takes people willing to take risks, otherwise we’d never develop new technologies,” he said. “We have to break this cycle (of burying garbage in landfills) sometime.”

WTE Committee Chair Rod Nichol, representing Area B, agreed.

“There’s little risk for us,” he said. “If the technology doesn’t work as well as we hoped, we still have the landfill.”

Nichol and Corfield believe that Sustane or WTT would build and operate a plant themselves, and the fees they charge back for processing the region’s waste would be lower than what residents now pay. CVRD staff doesn’t share that belief.

Time to amend the long-term plan

CVRD CAO Dyson said putting off further investigation of new technologies now would give staff time to engage ministries and the public about amending the solid waste management plan, and give WTT or Sustane time to prove their technologies.

The ministry of the Environment approved the CSWM Solid Waste Management Plan in 2013, and an amended plan in 2016 to permit construction of a new engineered landfill at Pigeon Lake that will contain toxic liquids and capture methane gas.

Besides the new landfill at Pigeon Lake, the Solid Waste Management Plan calls for environmentally-mandated closure of all other landfills in the two regional districts; building transfer stations in those communities losing landfills; and, adding a methane burners and an organic composting facility in Campbell River that is scheduled to open next year.

Committee member Roger Kishi of Cumberland said he’s “certain we need to continue down the path to new technologies, but he’s not as certain that the potential companies will cover all the costs of construction and operation.

“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” he said.

What’s next

The whole CSWM board must approve the recommended actions by the select committee at its next meeting on April 19.

FURTHER READING: Provincial ban on plastic bags needed

 

 

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