by Tom Walker
KAMLOOPS – Kevin Boon, general manager of the BC Cattlemen’s Association (BCCA), is calling the Ministry of Environment (MOE) to task for its inept handling of groundwater licensing.
“It’s been a fiasco from the start. It has been utter chaos and it has been, I would say, the biggest example of bureaucratic mishandling that I have ever seen,” says Boon, his frustration evident, at the Kamloops Stockman’s Association’s recent semi- annual meeting.
Since the BC Water Sustainability Act took effect two years ago, there have been little more than 1,500 applications, for which MOE has only issued 97 actual licenses.
“There has been a real glitch in the get- along somewhere,” he said. “Some of the applications have been in for more than a year and have not yet reached the desk of those that approve it. It has been an embarrassment to be quite frank and we made that very clear to the Ministry of Environment.”
Changes to the application form have made it simpler, and FrontCounter BC has made more computers available, but Boon says the issues run deeper.
“We are not sure the applications are leaving FrontCounter and ending up on the desk of Environment,” he says. “We are hoping the problems have been resolved. They promise us they have. But in the meantime, the new government is doing a review on the application process.”
While the government is working to move the application process online, Boon says this doesn’t work for all ranchers. Some don’t have computer skills or adequate Internet service.
“We’ve certainly made them aware that this does not work well for a lot of our members,” he says. “We have pushed hard to be able to have it done by paper.”
Boon credits BCCA director Linda Allison, who ranches in the Similkameen Valley near Princeton, with ensuring that ranchers have submitted the majority of the license applications the province has received to date.
“She really understands the value of water licensing and the need for all ranchers to get their groundwater licensed,” he said.
BCCA is asking the province to permanently waive application fees and to extend “first- in- time, first- in- right” privileges to late applications.
“We got a one- year waiver and we had it extended to the end of this year but it is very evident that it is still not working and it is not our fault,” Boon says. “We are also asking that they extend the first- in- time, first- in- right recognition because of the flawed process.”
Boon wonders what value BC taxpayers are getting from the process. He notes that $25 million was allocated for extra staffing to do the applications.
“If we are spending $25 million and getting 97 licenses approved in that time, I would not say that that is a very good use of our dollars,” he says. “Especially when I consider that the contribution for AgriRecovery towards fires that devastated three million acres was $20 million dollars. Where’s the best use of those funds?”
Vol. 103 Issue 12
STORIES IN THIS EDITION
What on earth?
Opposition slams ALC bill
Sidebar: Protection & pushback
Editorial: Truth in labelling
Back Forty: So you don’t believe in climate change
Viewpoint: Don’t blame the cows for global warming
Ag council’s lobbying efforts produce results
Learning a new skill
Foundation’s nest egg for funding projects increases
Province will hold the line on piece rates
New CEO aims to kindle team spirit at co-op
FIRB decision prompts rethink of pricing scheme
Beekeepers see potential in technology transfer
AgSafe markes quarter century
Raspberries hit hard by harsh February
Blueberry growers anxious for new varieties
Biological controls for pests in demand
Sidebar: Pesticides in play
Growers urged to focus on fresh
Westgen celebrates 75 years of excellence
Top seller was no-show at Holstein sale
Spring show attracts exhibitors from Quebec
Cheesemakers unite to grow niche market
Range use permits under greater scrutiny
Sidebar: Range use plans go digital
Market Musings: Top bulls sell for top dollar at spring sales
Grapegrowers share sustainability objectives
Grape specialist honoured for dedication
Hazelnut production expands across BC
Sidebar: Pest pressures
Supporters take to AITC’s Sips & Sprouts
Research: Cultured meat fails to impress researchers
UAVs undergo testing for pesticide delivery
Sustainability goes beyond saving farmland
Father and daughter roll with the last of the steel wheels
Woodshed: Susan Henderson is warming to country life
Wannabe: Farming is more than just a job
Surplus, cull fruit finds new purpose as tasty snacks
Jude’s Kitchen: Special food for special moms