Meeting debates hatchery issues
Gulf Islands Driftwood, Wednesday, April 02, 2003
By Gail Sjuberg
A rare public meeting between about 70 islanders
and a provincial government official, prompted by alarm over
a sablefin hatchery being built at Walker Hook, unfolded with
civility at Lions Hall Friday afternoon. While not considered
an official "public hearing," several of the 25 people who
spoke against approval of a 20-year lease between landowner
Henry Caldwell and Sablefin Hatcheries Ltd. read from prepared
statements, making it feel more "official" than most public
gatherings. Victoria lawyer Jack Woodward also made a detailed
presentation opposing the subdivision on behalf of a group
called Salt Spring Residents for Responsible Land Use.
On the listening end of it all was Rob Howat,
Ministry of Transportation subdivision approving officer for
Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands. Based on his own evaluation
and legislation he must heed, and comments from various government
agencies and the public, he will decide if the 20-year lease
will be approved. At Friday's meeting, those opposed cited
worries about the hatchery causing increased truck traffic
in the area and its effect on both safety and road condition.
They said it was cited in the wrong place, surrounded by a
residential neighbourhood with high density by Salt Spring
standards, and that it would negatively impact the island's
tourism industry. "We could lose a lot more from aquaculture
than we could get from the few jobs it might provide," said
Maliview resident Sharon Bywater.
Lawyer Woodward took the most time to try persuading
Howat the subdivision of Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) lands
to facilitate the hatchery was "against the public interest"
— one reason it may be refused. He cited official community
plan and Islands Trust Policy Statement clauses, and a similar
case in Vancouver that saw the B.C. Supreme Court uphold an
appeal of a subdivision refusal. Citing Section 86 of the
Land Title Act, Woodward said it could also be refused for
"injuriously affecting established amenities of neighbouring
properties." Woodward said that was a key point because in
provincially mandated Trust legislation, "amenities" are defined
as the natural attributes of the entire island — not man-made
"On this land [in the Trust area] there is
an established written policy and you have to decide if this
subdivision is consistent with these principles." Walker Hook
is also listed in Salt Spring's official community plan as
one of three places cited as desirable for future park acquisition.
"You have an OCP in front of you that names only three places,"
said Woodward. Parks, Arts and Recreation Commission (PARC)
chair Bill Curtin said the Walker Hook area had also been
identified by PARC as ideal for future parkland. "Give Salt
Spring time to do what is right and serve the public interest,"
Woodward also said Howat should be guided by
Agricultural Land Commission rules that state a subdivision
of ALR lands should improve the farming capability of the
lands in question. He provided documents on the provincially
registered archaeological sites of First Nations importance
in the area. "The building is being built on top of midden,"
Islander Murray Reiss, speaking as chair of
the 600-member Growing Circle Food Co-operative, also noted
the disconnect between the OCP that forbids fish farming in
our marine waters and having a hatchery whose product serves
fish farms in other communities. "We would be forced to participate
in an industry we've stated we want no part of," said Reiss.
Speaking in support of the application were
Chris Hatfield, who has been involved in aquaculture for many
years, local aquaculture worker Matt Salo, who recently acquired
shares in Sablefin Hatcheries Ltd., and Lorraine Norfolk.
Salo said it was important some industry exists in our society,
and that compromise was needed. "I think [this hatchery] is
a good compromise in terms of the production of food and protection
of the environment," he said. "There is no question the hatchery
has no environmental impact." Hatfield said he was speaking
up for people who need to make a living from farming and said
the island shouldn't rely entirely on tourism. "Surely we're
not going to turn this community into only making beds for
Americans," he said.
Norfolk told Howat the crowd in the room opposed
to the subdivision represented only about "half of one per
cent of the population of Salt Spring." Marilyn Marshall later
estimated that based on usual calculations of expressed public
opinion, "each one of us represents 100 people." Later in
the week, trustee Kimberly Lineger said she was pleased with
the way the meeting turned out. "I was really happy to see
that the group was able to go beyond differences of opinion
and hear what each side had to say," she commented. "It was
important to hear both sides of the story." Howat said the
meeting gave him "lots to digest" and that a notice of conditional
approval or rejection would be sent to the Islands Trust.
Trustee Lineger said she would make that information available
as soon as it was received. "You're a brave man to come into
the lion's den like this," said islander Harry Warner to Howat.
"The word 'stupid' crossed my mind," he joked in response.
But in explaining his rationale for meeting with the public,
he said it had become "abundantly clear" that people wanted
to talk to him about the subdivision.
Howat was accompanied by Mike Donald, MOT senior
district engineering technician. Nina Raginsky also thanked
Lineger for chairing the meeting and ensuring it was not divisive.
Howat said final approval of any subdivision is appealable
through the courts. The sablefin hatchery can still proceed
without subdivision approval, but with three-year renewable