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UPDATE: Ponoka County landowner pays for road repairs after unpermitted manure haul caused damage

Highway Traffic Act doesn’t differentiate between commercial, agricultural vehicles
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(Stock photo/Metro Creative Connection)

Note: This story has been updated to include additional, updated information from County councillor Doug Weir.

Ponoka County administration is reviewing existing road use and protection legislation after a unpermitted manure haul caused a stink earlier in November.

According to Coun. Doug Weir, a custom operator was hauling away manure on a property on Dakota Road without a permit. The ground was wet and tracked black soil onto the road, six or eight inches deep, making it impassable to regular traffic.

Dakota Road is a main connector to Highway 53 for commuters to get into town and likely only pickup trucks could get through until it was cleaned up, said Weir.

“It just not good farming practices.”

The hauling damaged the road, and the county had to repair it, which was done at the landowner’s expense, said Weir.

The repair costs included material, such as gravel, and machinery.

Any fines applied through the road use bylaw will be the responsibility of the operator, he added.

Weir explained a permit is required whenever more than one or two loads of anything — whether it’s oilfield related, or manure or silage — is going to be consistently hauled on a county road.

“I want to be perfectly clear: it’s for everybody,” said Weir.

There are no charge for hauling permits, however, they’re required as it allows the county know when and where hauling is occurring, so graders can then go out and return roads to a safe condition.

County council discussed the road use bylaw, weight restrictions and the recent incident and the issues caused, during their regular meeting on Nov. 14.

According to the meeting minutes, there has been some inconsistencies regarding enforcement of agricultural activity versus oilfield activity.

The Highway Traffic Act doesn’t differentiate between commercial vehicles and agricultural vehicles.

The current bylaw restricts hauling manure after dark due to visibility concerns. The limited time frame had been mandated as custom operators had not done a good job of ensuring that they were fully visible, according to the county.

Council discussed how roads must be maintained in a safe manner and traffic must be visible to the traveling public.

Weir said the county chief administrative officer, Public Works and a peace officer spoke to the landowner on Nov. 17, explaining the need for a permit.

It was stated the unpermitted manure haul should have ceased operation when the road began deteriorating. As such, the landowner was responsible under the bylaw for paying the cost of repairs to the road.

During the meeting, Weir said the operator disregarded the damage they were doing and should be fined to the fullest extent of the bylaw.

Tom Kootstra, chairman of the Right to Farm group, was in attendance as a ratepayer who had been negatively impacted by the recent obstruction of Dakota Road.

Kootstra proposed a meeting to discuss the issue, and it was suggested that custom operators should be included in the meetings.

With the changes to the agricultural industry in the last 10 years, it was agreed the bylaw needed to be updated. The Highway Traffic Act would always be the governing document.

Administration was directed to investigate other jurisdictions and meet with local feedlot operators, farmers and the Right to Farm group to get a better understanding of how best to manage these concerns.

Kootstra concurred the bylaw needed to be updated to ensure local farmers and operators understood that it applied to them.

Administration was directed to review the existing road use and protection legislation and arrange meetings with operators, landowners and the Right to Farm group.

Weir said after those consultation meetings are held, the county will be working to update the wording in the road use bylaw as well as the wording on the hauling permits, in order to clarify allowed usages.

Gull Lake stabilization project

A motion to enter into the Gull Lake Pumping Project Cost Sharing agreement was passed, with one councillor opposed.

Council discussed the Gull Lake Stabilization project and the request of the committee to top up the fund to $250,000. The existing agreement expired in 2022. The new agreement would be for another 10 years.

Administration recommended the county enter into the agreement based on the work being done by the Gull Lake Watershed Association.

Alberta Environment had not issued a new pumping permit based on the Prussian Carp in the surrounding rivers.

Reeve Paul McLauchlin noted the water license may never be renewed if the four parties don’t maintain the pumping system.

Reclassification

Following a public hearing, council passed a bylaw to rezone approximately 40 acres of the S ½ SW 1-43-1-W5 from Agricultural District to Country Residential Hobby Farm.

The applicants, Bruce and Pam Ogilvie, requested the reclassification to allow for future subdivision of the easterly portion of the property to create two 20-acre lots.

No objections had been received from adjacent landowners.

Rimbey Municipal Library

County council voted to approve the status quo funding for the Rimbey Municipal Library of a $55,000 contribution towards their 2024 proposed budget and elected to discuss the request of an additional $690.50 during budget deliberations.

Regional water line

Coun. Mark Matejka advised Louis Bull Tribe was considering joining the regional water line. It as stated the county contribution should be reduced for 2024 due to reallocation of resources.

FCSS Christmas hampers

Coun. Nancy Hartford noted the distribution of Christmas hampers by the Rimbey Family and Community Support Services will increase due to the cost of living.

NRCB approvals, monitoring

Weir received several calls on the new dairy operation being established regarding water availability, spreading of manure, road usage and regulation of the operation by the Natural Resources Conservation Board (NRCB).

Concern was expressed that the NRCB “puts responsibility onto the community to police intensive livestock operations when, in fact, they should be required to monitor projects they have approved.”

Currently, the NRCB is fully complaint-based with no responsibility to respond to complainants, the agenda minutes stated.

Rimbey recreation update

Craig Douglas, chief administrative officer of the Town of Rimbey, gave an update on the town’s recreation facilities.

Outdoor Pool:

• Operates from May to September with total operating hours over 1,100.

• Utilized for swimming lessons, school bookings and public swimming.

Arena:

• Mainly used in the fall/winter season for minor hockey, pond hockey, adult teams, school bookings and public skating.

• Offering off season bookings for minor soccer, minor ball and a ball clinic.

• They were looking to increase usage during the off season.

Community Centre:

• Programs currently scheduled were pickleball, badminton, yoga, free weights, Zumba, gentle fit and pilates.

• The rooms were available for rent for meetings, events, weddings etc.

• 2023 expected total usage hours were 1,643.

Completed upgrades:

• Fitness Centre – treadmill, recumbent bike and a spin cycle were added.

• Concession – HVAC unit.

• Walk behind scrubber.

• Ice plant brine pump.

Future projects:

• Spray park required upgrade to a flow through system.

• Fitness Centre – Smith machine.

• Community centre/arena – renovations to the exterior walls.

Public requests not yet approved by council:

• Off-leash dog park.

• Continuation of the walking trail.



Emily Jaycox

About the Author: Emily Jaycox

I’m Emily Jaycox, the editor of Ponoka News and the Bashaw Star. I’ve lived in Ponoka since 2015 and have over seven years of experience working as a journalist in central Alberta communities.
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