Salmon Arm Council wants your opinion on its plan to prohibit the bottling of groundwater in the city.
The provincial Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, which handles groundwater licence applications, has given council an unequivocal ‘no’ to its request to provide input on groundwater in Salmon Arm, so council is doing what some other municipalities have done.
Mayor Alan Harrison told council’s Aug. 23 meeting that a reply from Paul Rasmussen, assistant deputy minister, laid out the ministry’s position.
“If you read that letter it is quite clear that the answer is, ‘Thank you very much for your inquiry. We look after this.’ So, we do not have any input to the groundwater in our city. It’s clear,” he said.
Using a power left to local government, council directed staff in July to launch the process to change a zoning bylaw to regulate bottling of groundwater.
By adding groundwater to the bylaw and then prohibiting bottling it in ‘light industry’ and ‘private utility’ definitions, the proposed amendments would prohibit the commercial bottling of groundwater in the city.
After giving a unanimous vote to the zoning amendment’s first and second readings at its Aug. 23 meeting, council will be looking for public input at a public hearing set for Sept. 27 at 7 p.m.
Kevin Pearson, the city’s director of development services, noted the bylaw amendment stems from a groundwater licence application to the ministry related to the Tuhok Aquifer that council became aware of earlier this year.
The application came from a property at 3030 40th St. SE, so, in keeping with ministry guidelines, only neighbouring properties within a specified perimeter were notified. The application proposes using a total of 131,490 cubic metres – more than 34 million US gallons – per year for a water bottling facility.
Calling it a fairly extensive aquifer, Pearson noted that Tuhok extends from the Grandview Bench area near the turn-off to Deep Creek extending northwesterly into Salmon Arm, through the industrial park, to Hillcrest and north along Highway 97 B.
Pearson’s report said the proposed amendments are similar to zoning bylaw regulations adopted by the City of Courtney and the Comox Valley Regional District. He said approximately 18 other zoning bylaws with similar regulations exist in B.C. Legal advice was received by staff earlier this month which assisted in firming up the language of the amendments and closing potential loopholes.
Coun. Tim Lavery, who spearheaded action on the issue, said although the city can’t control what others do, it can control zoning. He said he fully supports the prohibition and looks forward to the public hearing.
He said he’s learned about examples in other local governments where applicants will try to go to one jurisdiction and, if that doesn’t work, go to another, sometimes on the same aquifer. He said although the city can’t control whether the province gives an applicant permission, the city can follow what it believes – and he believes there should be an appropriate business use and not the commodification of water.
Coun. Kevin Flynn expressed partial opposition, calling the plan hypocritical because the city allows commercial use of its treated water, despite the treatment plant being stretched by demand during this summer’s heat wave.
“If we’re truly concerned about all water sources, the creeks that flow into the lake are at an all-time low, should we be expanding this (prohibition) to say we’re not going to sell our water? Because I feel like we’re only partially resolving the issue.”
Mayor and councillors agreed that the province’s legislation is outdated, not allowing municipalities input on groundwater within their boundaries.
and subscribe to our daily newsletter.