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Propane cannon bylaw proposed

A draft bylaw seeks to further regulate the use of propane cannons.  - John Van Putten
A draft bylaw seeks to further regulate the use of propane cannons.
— image credit: John Van Putten

New restrictions on the use of controversial propane cannons could be coming in the form of a municipal bylaw.

Considered a noisy nuisance by many residents who live near blueberry fields, the civic legislation would impose new limitations on the timing and placement of audible bird scare devices (ABSDs), currently regulated by the ministry of agriculture.

The draft was created by the farm bylaw committee, a group of city councillors, farm representatives and members of the public.

Coun. John Smith said the ministry regulations are "impossible to enforce" and a bylaw would put management in city hands.

A full ban on ABSDs has been suggested, but Smith worries about the effect on berry farmers, who lose around 10 per cent of their crops to birds.

"I can see the need for cannons in a certain case."

The draft bylaw seeks middle ground, he said, adding that the problems exist between rural berry farmers and residential neighbours, but also with other farmers, including those who own animals that are spooked by the explosions.

Propane cannons emit loud blasts, which can be more than 100 decibels, and may fire more than 100 times per hour, with multiple shots.

Smith said the noise is similar to a shotgun, and the repetition makes it sound like "a war zone."

The ministry suggests local governments adopt a farm bylaw increasing restrictions, instead of seeking a ban.

The committee's draft would regulate the noise level, frequency of use, distance from homes and hours of operation for the devices.

The bylaw would stipulate that the devices do not exceed 60 decibels, face away from neighbouring homes, and prohibit use on Saturday afternoons, Sundays and statutory holidays.

The committee is seeking input on the draft bylaw until Feb. 8. Comments can be directed to the manager of bylaw enforcement, Gordon Ferguson, at 604-864-5630 or gferguson@abbotsford.ca, or on an online form at www.abbotsford.ca.

Though the bylaw would improve conditions for neighbours, Smith said the problem for farmers will continue, as ABSDs only scare birds to other crops.

He said something must be done about the starlings eating the berries.

"It's a big issue. It isn't going to get any better."

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