Town hall meeting planned on blueberry cannons

A Langley Township task force has been meeting with different groups involved in the debate over blueberry cannons to prepare for a January public meeting on the issue.

The propane-fired cannons are used by blueberry farmers to scare off birds that might otherwise munch their crops.

The cannons can be fired from 7 a.m. to noon, and from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. during the summer.

The noise has drawn complaints from homeowners who say the loud bangs are annoying, and from horse owners who say the sound spooks their animals.

A town-hall style meeting has been set for Thursday, Jan. 17 at 7 p.m. in the main council chambers on the fourth floor of Langley Township city hall.

A second “overflow” day has been booked for Jan. 24 in case more than one day is needed to get through the speakers’ list.

The propane cannon task force was created in September after council put off a decision on changes to Township noise bylaws and the creation of a farming bylaw to forbid the cannons as “excessive, intrusive, and inhumane” to use the words chosen by the councillor who proposed the ban, Kim Richter.

While the  municipality does not have the power to directly regulate the cannons under existing right-to-farm regulations, Richter said it could lobby the Provincial Ministry of Agriculture to impose a ban.

On Sept. 10, council sent the matter to the municipal Agricultural Advisory Committee to investigate and report back.

The committee established the task force during its Sept. 19 meeting and assigned it to meet with the berry farmers who use the propane cannons and the people who complain about them, as well as government agencies and experts.

A written record of the Agricultural Committee meeting shows the task force was assigned to “explore ways to address the use of propane cannons in the Township” by researching the current situation, then make recommendations.

“It’s challenging,” task force chairperson Megan Dykeman said.

Dykeman told The Times the task force has heard from a number of individuals and last month met with a representative from Horse Council British Columbia.

The B.C. Sport Horse and Sport Pony Breeders Group also filed a written statement, she said.

“We’ve received a lot of submissions from the horse community about the noise,” Dykeman said.

On Jan. 11, the task force will meet with a representative of the British Columbia Blueberry Council, which represents over 800 growers.

It also plans to hear from an expert on starlings, the berry-munching birds the cannons are aimed at.

Anyone interested in speaking at the town hall meeting on Jan. 17 should register at 604-533-6154.

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