By CHARLES TWEED
“Don’t get your feathers ruffled.”
Not so easy for some Chain Lake residents to say, after the Natural Resources Conservation Board (NRCB) approved the construction of a 95,000 poultry broiler operation in the area.
The debate has continued since a public hearing was held Dec. 16, where Ponoka County council decided an indepth study of the area around Chain Lakes was required before going ahead with changes to its municipal development plan (MDP) regarding confined feeding operations (CFO).
The county also planned to request the NRCB to place a moratorium on new or expanded CFOs within the area while the plan is being developed, something Andy Cumming, director of field services for the NRCB, was “unaware of.”
The uproar from residents doesn’t focus around the notion of a CFO being built in the region — there are plenty of other CFOs within the county — but instead, its proximity to the Chain Lakes.
“I’m not against confined livestock operations, but close to where the watershed will go into the lake is not the place for them,” said Marrion Owen, who lives near the lake.
Another major bone of contention is the issue that the CFO did not apply for a water license and some local residents believe there are natural springs in the area.
Bernice Thompson, who lives on the west side of the middle lake, believes strongly that there are springs on the proposed site.
“Individuals who have lived in this region for many years know of these springs. Some know there is such a spring on the west side of this property in question,” said Thompson.
The issue of springs in the proposed barn area was addressed by Zealand Farms owners Henk and Gerrie Krijger.
“We farm the property and we have not seen any springs nearby, so we feel our information is correct. We have cultivated the field once, harrowed it twice, seeded it once, disked it four times and picked rocks, if there were any springs we should have found them.”
Ponoka County council has discussed the CFO extensively and may look at revisions to the language regarding land use in its MDP.
“We just don’t want lagoons close to the riverbank and any new lagoon should be further away from the lake, as far as farming goes, they can farm it right up to the lake,” said Coun. Gawney Hinkley.
In a letter written to the NRCB the county states: “The county requests the NRCB not to allow CFOs closer than two miles to any lake unless the regulators are convinced that the manure management system is fail-safe and there is no reasonable risk of contamination of the lake.”
By legislation the NRCB must follow the land use provisions of the local MDP.
Francisco Echegaray, the approval officer for the NRCB responded to the county’s concerns.
“The NRCB interprets the policy’s ‘fail-safe’ as meaning, not 100 per cent risk free, but sufficiently protective to prevent a ‘reasonable risk’ of lake contamination.”
The explanation didn’t sit well with Thompson “fail-safe means safe without fail.”
The approved CFO is currently in the appeal stage of the process and anyone wishing to voice a concern must do so by Jan. 28. For more information about the appeal process phone the NRCB board reviews manager at 780-422-1951.