Salmon Arm council is looking to plug the province’s approach to groundwater extraction through zoning.
Zoning bylaw amendments proposed by the City of Salmon Arm triggered a public hearing held Monday evening, Sept. 27, in council chambers. Proposed text amendments to zoning in the city’s application included a definition of “ground water” (water naturally occurring below the surface of the ground), as well as additions to definitions of existing terms, including “light industry” and “private utility,” so that neither permits a building or facility used for bottling groundwater, either on its own or as a by-product for beverage manufacturing for commercial sale. Also proposed was the renaming of General Regulations to General Regulations and Prohibitions, with an inclusion under the latter of buildings or facilities used for bottling water for commercial sale in all zones.
City director of development services Kevin Pearson noted this would be the first prohibition section added to the city’s zoning bylaw.
Prompting these amendments was an application to the B.C. government for a groundwater licence to bottle water from a property at 3030 40th St. SE. The application was submitted to the Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD) for referral, as the subject property is adjacent to a CSRD landfill. However, the application was not provided to the city for comment, though the property is within the municipality.
After the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, which handles groundwater licence applications, said ‘no’ to a request from council to provide input on groundwater in Salmon Arm, council directed staff in to launch a process to change its zoning bylaw to regulate bottling of groundwater.
There were no comments from the public at the Sept. 27 hearing, though the city did receive letters in support of the direction the city was taking.
Dr. Ruth Brighouse wrote council advising it to do what it can to protect the water supplies of the municipality.
“Fresh water is more valuable than gold or oil,” wrote Brighouse. “Fresh water should be a basic human right and not a commodity for profit.”
When it was council’s turn to speak, Coun. Tim Lavery had much to say on the matter. He was critical of the province of not being transparent, noting the city still isn’t aware of the status of the application to the province for the 40th Street property.
“I do believe it is in the public good not to be selling a public asset,” said Lavery. “I do believe the province gets $2.25 per million litres of water extracted. And we’re not the only local government or provincial voice saying ‘hold on here, this isn’t the right way of going about things.’”
Coun. Kevin Flynn commented there are number of natural assets that are sold (forestry) over which the city has no control. However, he was critical of the province’s handling of the groundwater application and the city not being consulted.
“I will support it begrudgingly because I think it’s our only way to deal with the province mishandling this resource,” said Flynn. “I too have heard from lots of people who are not in favour of water bottling, but also who are not in favour of us continuing to regulate more and more business.”
After the hearing, council gave its unanimous support to the third reading of the zoning bylaw amendments. Mayor Alan Harrison thanked Lavery for “providing the political leadership necessary to get to this point.”
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