A talk on how Ponoka County can better use permits to manage road damage may soon generate a provincial discussion on a wider issue.
Coun. Doug Weir brought the subject forward to the June 18 meeting following claims from residents regarding manure hauling and the lack of adherence to operating times. He is also concerned that many large farming operations are damaging roads and endangering the public when transporting some of the current enormous pieces of equipment on county roads.
“I want to see permits for all hauling and a cost associated with them,” Weir stated.
“We need to penalize for those not complying. At the end of the day, any permit costs us money. When it comes to manure or silage hauling, I’ve been questioned often by people living on acreages and even other farmers about why they are subsidizing, through their taxes, certain parts of the industry simply because they are pounding out the roads.
“We need to start moving in a different direction. If an oil company did what many of these companies are doing, we would nail them.”
CAO Charlie Cutforth explained the purpose of permits was so that the county would know what activities are taking place on their roads.
“That way, we are able to keep graders in area in case the roads deteriorate, but they were never intended for recovery of potential damages,” he said, adding that energy company permits do have damage costs attached.
While Coun. Bryce Liddle said agriculture people simply wouldn’t pay and then do what they wanted anyway, Reeve Paul McLauchlin felt there is a need to at least have a discussion with interested parties because there is a cost to the county.
“There concerns could lead to a valid conversation with Ponoka Right to Farm on what they could propose for the impact on roads from (supply management) operations,” he said, noting all that’s been heard from them is they want good communities.
“You are right — we have a real problem. Their taxes are really low and their impact on services is exceedingly high, so we have disproportionate impact on infrastructure. As such, we would like to see they can come up with a reasonable solution to it.
McLauchlin then referenced the challenges faced a couple of years ago by Lethbridge County, who asked intensive livestock operators about paying more for infrastructure damage and had industry plug their ears because they are agriculture. The county then hit them with a head tax, which saw many operations move to a neighbouring county.
“I’d like to have that discussion at least. If people respected their neighbour then there would be no need for rules, but that’s not happening,” added Weir.
“The big hammer we do have is a 100 per cent road ban with a huge fine attached. I don’t want that. But honestly, certain segments are taking us for granted.”
While part of the answer may come from less hauling in the future, council did pass a motion to draft a letter to the Natural Resources Conservation Board regarding the county’s concerns that tax assessment and other issues are not matching up with the disproportionate impact confined feeding operations are having. The letter will also be copied to the Ponoka Right to Farm and a provincial working group on intensive livestock.