No ban of propane cannons possible
The final report by the Township of Langley Propane Cannon Task Force will not call for banning the controversial devices.
Instead, the committee is proposing tighter regulations, including larger setbacks and less frequent firing near horses.
That comes after receipt of a letter from the BCFIRB (BC Farm Industry Review Board) the provincial authority that would have to approve banning the audible bird scare devices.
In the letter, BCFIRB made it clear the agency will not permit a ban, task force chair Megan Dykeman told The Times Tuesday (March 5).
"They were willing to look at other options, but not a full ban," Dykeman said.
"It would be irresponsible for us as a committee to recommend a ban knowing it will be overturned."
The task force report will go to the Township Agricultural Advisory Committee on March 21.
It proposes a farm bylaw that would require blueberry farms to keep cannons a greater distance from horse farms, who have complained the noise, designed to scare away birds, is also frightening their animals.
It would also reduce how often the cannons can be fired.
The bylaw would set escalating fines, $150 for a first offence, $350 for a second and $500 for a third offence.
The amount would not rise any higher after a third offence because that would increase the likelihood of legal action against the Township, Dykeman said.
"We would essentially be litigating each one."
Farmers would be required to get a licence to use cannons and provide a bird management plan before one is granted.
Though the regulations are not the ban most Langley critics of the cannons have called for, Dykeman said they are "practical and implementable" options.
"We think we've found the best possible solution [given the BCFIRB rejection of any ban]," Dykeman said.
The Propane Cannon Task Force was created in September after council postponed a decision on proposed changes to Township noise bylaws and the creation of a farming bylaw to forbid the cannons.
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.
During a public hearing in January, the task force heard from 25 speakers, all critical of blueberry cannons.
They said the noisemakers used to scare away berry-munching birds are disturbing to people, horses and pets and most demanded an outright ban.
"They are depriving me of my right to farm," said John Reid, one of many horse facility owners to speak.
The constant noise during the blueberry growing season is driving down property values, Reid added."
Alicia Harper, vice-president of membership and marketing for the Horse Council of BC, said the cannons are especially damaging in Langley, often called the "horse capital of B.C."
Carol Hauta, a Langley resident who lives near three blueberry farms that use propane cannons, said friends and family won't come out for summer barbecues at her place during the summer because of the noise.
"In the middle of the growing season when we have our door and windows open to enjoy the summer weather, all we can hear is the boom of propane cannons and the screech of noise scare devices," Hauta said.