By Treena Mielke / Ponoka News
After a heated public hearing Dec. 16, Ponoka County council has decided to do an in-depth study of the area around Chain Lakes before going ahead with changes to its municipal development plan regarding confined feeing operations.
The county also plans to request the Natural Resources Conservation Board to place a moratorium on new or expanded CFOs within the area while the plan is being developed.
“Hopefully they will adhere to our wishes,” said Reeve Gordon Svenningsen after the meeting.
“There is an application currently before the board that is quite close to the lake. It’s a chicken operation within that area (involving) 95,000 chickens.
“There is a lot of opposition to it and we are not in favour of him being in that location. We felt that it wasn’t the best place to put this barn.”
Thursday’s public hearing was held in response to a proposed amendment to the MDP that would restrict CFOs from setting up operations within two miles of the lake.
However, after listening to comments from a packed gallery that even spilled out into the hallway, council decided to go ahead with a recommendation by CAO Charlie Cuthbert to come up with an outline plan early in the new year.
Svenningsen said an outline plan will help clarify what type of operations can be allowed in the area.
“Our next step is we’re going to do a study of the area, an outline plan. We have done these plans around Gull Lake and are currently doing one around the Battle River. We feel that Chain Lakes should be no different. This way everybody will know what the rules are. The farmers have got to be able to continue to farm, but everybody needs to know what can be allowed in that area and what can’t. It’s a little bit vague, the way the municipal plan is laid out.”
Svenningsen said the county will strive to come up with a plan which best meets the needs of everyone involved.
“We probably will have more meetings about it and get more input. The big thing is we don’t want to see a big livestock operation get approved in the area that is in too close a proximity to the lake.”
However, Morris Thalen, who spoke on behalf of CARF (Central Alberta Right to Farm) at the public hearing, questions the idea that CFOs are responsible for polluting the lakes.
He said more studies need to be done to provide scientific data so the county is not basing decisions on emotion, perception and phone calls.
“Can the county look into the environmental study, done by the University of British Columbia, regarding Shusway River” and give us their view on this study?” he asked. “There’s been CFOs here a long time. Are we polluting Chain Lakes or are we not? Do your homework. Make sure we are the ones polluting the lake.”
Marrion Owen, who lives close to Chain Lakes, is not against confined livestock operations, but is pleased with the county’s decision to look at making changes that will restrict more operations setting up within a close proximity of the lakes or the watershed which feeds into the lakes.
“Chain Lakes are unique and we need to preserve them. If CFOs are continued to be allowed (near the lakes) it will destroy them. I’m not against confined livestock operations, but close to where the watershed will go into the lake is not the place for them.”