Aquaculture on Trust Council menu
Gulf Islands Driftwood, Wednesday, March 05, 2003
By Gail Sjuberg
When Islands Trust Council gathers on Salt
Spring this week, a sample of recent Salt Spring controversy
will land on its meeting doorstep. A group of islanders plans
to bring out the placards Friday afternoon to impress on council
a desire to see on-land aquaculture banned in the Trust area.
Salt Spring residents Kathy Scarfo, Chris Acheson and Donna
Martin have also registered as delegations to speak about
aquaculture at the opening of the business meeting at 1:30
p.m. on Friday. Nina Raginsky, one of the people involved
in a group called Salt Spring Residents for Responsible Land
Use, said a desire to stop growth of on-land aquaculture on
all Trust islands would be brought to council's attention.
Impact on the islands' rural character, available farmland
and tourism industry, plus the potential loss of wild fish
stocks should be considered, she said.
While aquaculture as a land use issue was not the core topic
of a legal opinion released by Victoria law firm Woodward
and Company last week, the group may still be buoyed by its
contents. It suggests the Agricultural Land Commission and
Ministry of Transportation would be open to receiving more
wide-ranging input from the Salt Spring Local Trust Committee
(LTC) when it comes to commenting on an application for a
20-year lease of land between Henry Caldwell and Sablefin
Hatcheries Ltd. (If a lease of more than three years is desired,
the process is considered a "subdivision" in Agricultural
Land Reserve lands even though no fee-simple lot is created.)
Trustees Kimberly Lineger and Eric Booth, and the Advisory
Planning Commission, had been advised they could only consider
the technical merits of the subdivision application, not related
land-use or environmental issues.
In a letter addressed to the Islands Trust, lawyer Jack
Woodward asks that the "public interest" — including aesthetic
and environmental concerns — be considered in comments provided
to the Ministry of Transportation (MOT), as provided in legislation
and case law. MOT has significant latitude when it considers
subdivision approval, he wrote. Woodward also asks the Trust
to request an environmental impact and planning study from
MOT, as provided for under Section 86(1) of the Land Title
Act, and a public hearing. "It is apparent from community
response that this information has not been provided to the
Islands Trust or community members and is of extreme importance
to substantiate or alleviate public concern," stated Woodward.
Rob Howat, the Ministry of Transportation subdivision approving
officer for Salt Spring, confirmed the legislative process
outlined in the letter is correct, although a public "hearing"
would not be held. He said that while the legislation allows
him to hold a public hearing, MOT is not "financially or administratively
set up to do it."
What he has done in the past and is willing to do in the
Walker Hook case is attend a public meeting organized by another
party. Howat is also scheduled to visit the site Friday. "I
make my decision based on all the reporting agencies — health
officer, Trust, Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection
— and we rely on them heavily to put forward any concerns
they might have regarding the proposal." Neighbours' comments
are also considered, he said.
Woodward notes that the Agricultural Land Reserve Use, Subdivision
and Procedure Regulation contains provisions for the ALC to
hold a public meeting and considered any information from
a local government respecting a subdivision application.
Chris Acheson, a member of the group that hired Woodward's
legal service, said an environmental impact study should definitely
be done and a public meeting held. "Trustees need to respond
to the Ministry of Transportation about this and we believe
it's clearly not in the best interests of the island and contradicts
our OCP and the type of development you would allow in an
environmentally sensitive area," said Acheson. "We are talking
about putting an exfiltration system on Walker Hook that has
never had an environmental impact study done on it. The whole
idea of sablefish farming has never had an environmental impact
study done on it and the concept of aquaculture on land in
environmentally sensitive areas has never had an environmental
impact study done on it."
John Gauld, the Trust's regional planning manager, said
the LTC's February 22 resolution and detailed comments have
already been forwarded to the Agricultural Land Commission.
(Gauld added that he can't comment on the contents of Woodward's
Rejection of the subdivision would only halt the hatchery
project if the company felt it could not proceed without the
certainty of a 20-year lease of the land, as opposed to renewing
Raginsky also advised the Driftwood that First Nation interests
in the Walker Hook area, which contained the Shuye'num village
site, are now being considered by legal counsel.
Other public concerns to be raised by delegates at the Trust
Council meeting Friday afternoon are treaty negotiations,
governance renewal, treaty negotiations, Galiano forest lots
and environmental education partnership are also being addressed
by other individuals from Salt Spring, North Pender and Galiano
A town hall session from 3:30-5 p.m. Friday also allows
more informal discussion between the public and trustees.
Salt Spring trustee Eric Booth is also scheduled to make a
presentation on a proposal for tax and voting changes on financial
matters at the Thursday afternoon "strategic planning" session
of council. Discussion of the 2003/04 budget will occur Friday
A community potluck dinner, tribute to past trustees, town
hall and entertainment also runs Friday night at 7 p.m. at
the Farmers Institute. Advance tickets, available at the Ganges
Trust office, are required. The entire Trust Council meeting
runs from Wednesday through Saturday afternoons.