Propane cannon bylaw to be tackled again

Issue of regulating devices will return for debate

The city will look at passing a bylaw to regulate the use of propane cannons in Abbotsford.

The city will look at passing a bylaw to regulate the use of propane cannons in Abbotsford.

A bylaw regulating the use of propane cannons will once again be considered by city council, after councillors resolved on Monday to bring the issue back to the table.

For the past few years, Abbotsford council has made numerous attempts to create local legislation that would address the noise from propane cannons – which emit loud blasts to scare birds away from berry crops – but has struggled to find consensus on a set of rules.

The use of propane cannons is protected by the provincial Right to Farm Act. Guidelines for use are set and enforced by the province and to further regulate the cannons, a city must create a “farm bylaw” that requires approval from the ministry of agriculture.

In 2013, after repeated attempts to pass a bylaw, council sent off a strict set of regulations for provincial approval. The request was eventually denied, as the province stated the rules would effectively serve as a ban on the devices.

In 2014, council once again failed to agree on regulations and instead called on staff to report on the potential to create a regional starling management program to reduce the population of the invasive species that feeds on berries.

But on Monday, a staff report to council said the Fraser Valley Regional District investigated the possibility of a program, but found other jurisdictions have less of a problem with starlings than in Abbotsford. It also cited concerns of cost and effectiveness.

Coun. Dave Loewen expressed disappointment that a regional program would not proceed and suggested that Abbotsford investigate for itself whether a program would be effective.

Council voted to bring a bylaw forward with restrictions similar to one in Langley, which was passed in 2013. It ensures blueberry farmers pay $125 per year for a cannon licence and post a notice on their property. It also regulates how often cannons can fire – one shot every five minutes for a single cannon and no more than 33 shots an hour when more than one cannon is being fired – and implements a 100-metre setback from horse trails.

It also sets out fines for violating the rules at $150 for a first offence, $350 for a second and $500 for a third and any subsequent offence.

Coun. Les Barkman expressed concern about taking on the province’s job of enforcing the regulations on propane cannons.

The bylaw will return to council for consideration at an upcoming meeting.