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
Province boosts ag spending
It’s a draw!
Editorial: Vice grip
Back Forty: Snow days make good days for seed selection
Viewpoint: Farmers need to prepare for annual snow melt
Smooth start to season as foreign workers arrive
Sidebar: Province mulls piece rates
Late winter has some Okanagan growers on edge
Ag show attracts near-record attendance
Ag Briefs: Traceability funding available for producers
Ag Briefs: Cattlemen’s launches webinar series
Ag Briefs: Grant winner announced
Labour remains a priority for fruit growers
Dairy, aquaculture take home awards at gala
Farmers need to prepare for uncertainty
Ag critic listens to concerns at farmers’ institute
Growers are responsible for workers’ safety
Robotic milkers sized up during dairy tour
Safe, high-quality silage depends on preparation
Diversification makes orchard a landmark
Ranchers need to match forage with herd needs
Producers question new Indigenous rights law
Hosting TRU students a way to give back
Livestock co-op provides selling, buying options
Sidebar: Market set to stay steady
Research: Bluetongue outbreaks expected to increase
Filling a niche for gourmet mushrooms
Regulations, housing key issues in Langley
Sheep producers seeing value in genetic program
Above and beyond
Vegetation fundamental to farms, landscape
Studies continue on forage, corn crop pests
4-H BC leader singled out
Growers go with the grain of beer revival
Agri-tourism has plenty of room for growth
Rose stem girdler poses threat to cranberries
Site prep critical for healthy hazelnut orchards
Sidebar: BC renewal program opens up
Wannabe: Renewal comes with a new generation of farmers
Woodshed: Deborah and Doug McLeod turn up the heat
A good place to meet up
Jude’s Kitchen: Celebrate spring by eating outside