Reader says speak up to protect local water

The public hearing for this is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 11 at 1:30 p.m. at the county office.

Dear editor,

Last November I wrote to local newspapers that the County of Wetaskiwin is proposing to amend their Municipal Development Plan (MDP) regarding the location of new confined feeding operations (CFO) and intensive livestock operations (ILO).  The public hearing for this is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 11 at 1:30 p.m. at the county office.  This public hearing is the only opportunity that we, the public, are given a voice.  We must speak up now because complaining, after the bylaw is amended, will be futile.

As clarification, both CFOs and ILOs are agricultural ventures involving confined animals within a building or certain area (e.g. feedlots, dairy, chickens, pigs, goats). Both require permits. Locations of both are governed by the county’s MDP.   The difference is that a CFO has more animals than the provincial government’s determined threshold number, whereas an ILO has fewer numbers of animals.

Last spring, an applicant for a new CFO (an 800-head goat dairy) requested to council (May 7, 2015 meeting) that the Wetaskiwin County relax their MDP bylaw, which governs “setback from lakes” for locating a new CFO.  The county’s current MDP bylaw (1.4.3b) states “….1.6 km. (1 mile) from Lakes” and this setback creates an environmental barrier to protect surface water from contamination.  The proposed location of this new CFO was within 170 meters of a lake.  But council approved the motion (November 12, 2015 meeting) which could allow the MDP bylaw to be reduced to as little as a 30-meter setback.  Council also suggested that this “lake” was possibly just a “wetland” making the current MDP bylaw not applicable.

Do not be fooled.  This upcoming public hearing is not for approving the location of this goat dairy; this hearing is to amend the MDP governing the future “setback from lake” restrictions of all new CFOs and ILOs throughout the entire County of Wetaskiwin.  The goat dairy application has since been withdrawn and this application has not been my issue with the county.  I am not opposed to new agricultural ventures which adhere to the county’s MDP bylaws, but I am objecting to the process that council has suggested.  Our lakes, wetlands and water courses must be safeguarded from contamination.  To do this the original setback of one mile should not be relinquished.

Speak to your councilor.  The vote of each councilor will determine if and how this bylaw will be amended.  The public has a chance to make a presentation at the public hearing but council makes the final decision. It is these councilors who will decide if the “setback from lakes” will be reduced.

This public hearing will be Thursday, Feb. 11 at 1:30 p.m. in the council chambers of the County of Wetaskiwin.  Speak to your councilor.  Write your letter of concern to council.  Come to the public hearing and have a voice. For more information, I can be contacted at cathy.minchau@gmail.com.

Cathy Minchau, R.R. 2, Millet, Alberta