The mussel operation is in Gorge Harbour. SRD map

Gorge Harbour resident urges Strathcona Regional District to act on aquaculture bylaws

Letter-writer Brian Hayden was also joint applicant in BCFIRB complaint against mussel operation

The question of mechanization of shellfish operations in the Gorge on Cortes Island was the subject of a hearing at the B.C. Farm Industry Review Board hearing in Campbell River earlier this year.

RELATED STORY: Cortes residents battle mussel operation over noise

A few residents – Vern and Mary Kemp, and Brian Hayden – made the complaints against Island Sea Farms (ISF) for its mussel operation over issues such as noise, particularly in connection with machinery used on site.

The BCFIRB said it would not weigh in on the questions of whether a bylaw from the Strathcona Regional District should permit mechanized operations but only on whether noise and other issues were outside the normal realm of acceptable “farm” practices.

Hayden is again taking up the matter of mechanization with the SRD. In early March, he sent a letter requesting a clause on the SRD website about aquaculture be removed. The wording in question states: “Passive aquaculture does not preclude the use of powered machinery or mechanized equipment to carry out the permitted uses in a zone.”

Hayden points out this wording was used by ISF to defend its use of mechanization during the BCFIRB hearing in January and he is asking for it to be changed.

“Given the potential importance of the above comment in the decisions made by BCFIRB or other judicial bodies regarding my complaint, I would like to have this comment withdrawn, and a retraction printed,” Hayden writes in his correspondence with the regional district.

He argues the clause is contrary to the intent of the bylaw dating back to the 1990s when George Sirk was the area director for Area B, and provided statements from Sirk stating that the intention for the Gorge area was to support small-scale aquaculture but not “industrialization.” In addition, there is a statement about the use of generators in the zones in question – that as they are not expressly permitted, meaning they must be prohibited. There are also references to the “rural character” and “quiet solitude” of the area, which were to be enshrined in the Cortes Island official community plan and zoning bylaw.

Hayden is also asking for repercussions in connection with the wording in question.

“Because of the serious legal and lifestyle consequences of this error, in addition to a retraction, I would like the board to reprimand the person(s) responsible for publishing this ‘comment’ and require them to cease and desist from putting such misinformation on the SRD webpages and making similar comments in the future which one would presume was based on their own personal agenda(s) in re-interpreting the bylaws of the SRD,” he said.

He also calls for the SRD to renew its legal suit against ISF for refusing to abide by the bylaw and criticizes Area B Director Noba Anderson, the current representative, for not standing up for Gorge Harbour residents’ interests.

RELATED STORY: ISF defends efforts to mitigate noise from mussel operation on Cortes Island

During the BCFIRB hearings, ISF called on witnesses to testify about the scale of its operations. One of the key points of discussion was whether the use of machines could be considering harvesting versus processing. Hayden and the Kemps argued it was the latter and in contravention of SRD bylaws. ISF witnesses, on the other hand, argued that according to federal legislation the level of mechanized activities could only be considered harvesting.

There were also other issues up for discussion such as noise and the wake caused by boats used by the company to scare off predatory birds. As of press time, the BCFIRB website shows the decision as pending.

As far as the SRD’s position on Hayden’s letter, the board voted to refer the matter to the chair and staff for review and to consider a response.

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