Trustees reverse hatchery subdivision decision
Gulf Islands Driftwood, Tuesday, July 01, 2003
By Gail Sjuberg
Exerting pressure paid off last week for a
citizens group fighting the sablefish hatchery at Walker Hook
when the Salt Spring Local Trust Committee (LTC) changed its
stance on the 20-year lease/subdivision application. The Thursday
afternoon public meeting heard from about 10 individuals wanting
the LTC to refuse authorization of the subdivision by writing
a letter to the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) and the
Ministry of Transportation (MOT), as outlined in a paid ad
from Salt Spring Island Residents for Responsible Land Use
in the June 25 Driftwood.
"The only people saying 'yes' [to the subdivision]
are those who will profit directly from it and the province,
which is trying to force aquaculture down everyone's throats,"
said Maliview resident Sharon Bywater in the meeting's first
round of public input. "You have everything to gain by doing
this. You have nothing to lose and you have community support
to do this."
Members of the public then heard again why
trustees Eric Booth, Kimberly Lineger and David Essig felt
their February decision — to articulate several concerns about
the project to the ALC but neither approve nor refuse the
20-year lease/subdivision — was the correct one for the time.
As Booth said, the LTC believed the project would proceed
as planned with or without the 20-year lease. By not outright
refusing approval, a 20-year rather than three-year lease
was up for consideration by the ALC and MOT subdivision approving
But after a second wave of pressure came from
Chris Acheson, Woodward & Company articling lawyer Jeanie
Lanine, and James and Kathy Scarfo on Thursday, Lineger decided
to go with the meeting's flow. "I'm willing to go out on a
political limb by making a stand and writing the letter to
the ALC to clarify our position . . . ." she said. In explaining
her change of heart, Lineger pointed to the provincial government's
proposed Bill 48 — the Agriculture, Food and Fisheries Statutes
Amendment Act 2003 — which if passed would erode local government
control over fish farm siting and likely eliminate the Trust
area prohibition on even finfish farms in marine waters.
Bill 48 received first reading in the legislature
on May 12 and is due to return to the fall sitting. "Given
the position of the provincial government, it's time to test
the Islands Trust Act out in this case," she said. "Too many
times I see the provincial government overrule us . . . given
Bill 48 and the direction the province is going, I think that
it's time we took a stand on this and this is it." Huge applause
filled the room following Lineger's mini-spiel, and Booth
and Essig joined Lineger in voting for her motion.
Before the deed was done, however, Trust regional
planning manager John Gauld piped up with a note of caution
to suggest trustees should receive their own legal advice
in the matter, as opposed to hearing only Woodward & Company
views. Another motion to seek legal advice was then passed
by the committee. Whether the LTC's revoking of subdivision
approval will fly with provincial authorities may still need
confirmation. Community member Julia Hengstler observed the
trustees' move to not approve the subdivision could be "the
vanguard of opposition to Bill 48" and she said other coastal
communities should be contacted to organize concerted opposition
to the provincial government's plan.
Some people urging the LTC to retroactively
not approve the subdivision had questioned what "protection"
the tombolo had really received through the trustees' actions,
since digging, disturbance of First Nations remains and well
construction had all been allowed to occur. "My point is that
protection of the tombolo through a 20-year lease is a joke,"
said area resident Donna Martin. Gauld noted construction
of buildings on that part of the land would be prohibited
through the lease arrangement. Earlier in the meeting, both
Booth and Lineger had said lease parties Sablefin Hatcheries
Ltd. and property owner Henry Caldwell wanted to protect the
area and agreed with tombolo protection conditions. A covenant
had even been discussed, said Lineger.
Demands for an environmental assessment to be
undertaken were also repeated, and Arnie Hengstler observed
there had been little mention of the ultimate impact the farmed
sablefish would have on wild stocks and the coastal environment.
Kathy Scarfo picked up on one of Essig's earlier statements
— that the LTC felt refusing the 20-year lease/subdivision
would have been "futile" for trying to stop the project —
by stating it would not be futile to stand up and say no.
"What you do then is give the community a voice, which is
what you were elected to do," said Scarfo.
Following the LTC's switched decision, more
general talk of the Islands Trust's role and "democracy" ensued.
Essig later said he was happy to see democracy in action at
the meeting. "Please don't feel you have ever lost your voice
. . . . We do listen to you." He also recited one of his favourite
quotes from philosopher Hannah Arendt: "Civil society begins
to fall apart when people feel they have lost their voice."
Regarding Bill 48, Essig reported that the Islands Trust executive
committee had already written a letter asking the province
to reconsider it, and said the Trust is sponsoring a Union
of B.C. Municipalities resolution to that effect.