John Alexander, a lawyer with the law firm Cox Taylor, speaks to the board at the CVRD Wednesday on his clients’ concerns with revisions to the district’s soil deposit bylaw. (Robert Barron/Citizen)

Cowichan Valley Regional District introduces hefty fees for soil-dump operations

Industry calls foul; asks for more consultations

New rules around large-scale soil dumping on private lands in the Cowichan Valley Regional District are not being received well by the industry.

The CVRD’s board voted unanimously at its meeting on April 24 to adopt a revised version of its soil deposit bylaw, including application fees and security deposits, for the first time.

RELATED STORY: NEW SOIL DUMPING BYLAW PROPOSED IN CVRD

Board chairman Ian Morrison said it has become apparent that the CVRD was becoming a dumping ground for soil coming out of Victoria and the Capital Regional District.

“To be clear, we’re not talking about contaminated soil here, which is a provincial jurisdiction, we’re talking about clean soil that is coming here unregulated that’s having an impact on our environment and landscape,” Morrison said.

“There are fees for soil dumping in the CRD so there has been a business case for trucking soil over the Malahat to the CVRD. We wanted to create an equal playing field in our regulations and to adequately protect our environment, and that’s the point of this bylaw.”

Soil infill operations in the CVRD that bring in between 100 to 1,000 cubic metres of soil per year will now require a $300 application fee, plus $4 for every 10 cubic metres of deposited soil.

These operations will also have to pay a security deposit of $3,000.

For larger operations, the fees are significantly higher.

Operations that bring in more than 1,000 cubic metres of soil each year will be required to pay a $2,000 application fee, plus $6 for each 10 cubic metres of deposited soil.

They will also have pay a security deposit of $20,000 for the first hectare of deposited soil, plus $20,000 prorated for each additional hectare.

The new rules for operations bringing in more than 1,000 cubic metres per year take effect on June 3.

A grace period of up to 90 days will be allowed for the applicants to provide all the required reports and documentation, as well as time the staff will require to complete the permit process.

RELATED STORY: TENTATIVE PLANS CALL FOR CONTAMINATED SOIL TO STAY AT CONTENTIOUS SHAWNIGAN LAKE SITE

Mike Ferguson, who owns a soil infill site in the southern section of the CVRD, was one of a number of industry members who attended Wednesday’s meeting.

He said he was only notified of the impending regulations last week, and the CVRD didn’t reach out to consult with him beforehand.

“My entire life savings and my children are on the line here,” Ferguson said.

“This operation is a huge investment and all I’m asking is that we be heard. This is outrageous and you’re going to bankrupt people.”

Sheila Bell Irving, who lives in the south section of the CVRD, said the district has advertised for and held numerous open houses and meetings to gather public input on the issue, and if members of the industry missed them, that’s their fault.

“This is just another stalling tactic,” she said.

“I watched 26 trucks hauling soil in just one hour on Shawnigan Lake Road today. All this soil being trucked in is causing lots of problems in our local environment and it’s out of control.”

RELATED STORY: JUDICIAL REVIEW ON DIRT DUMPING CONCLUDES

John Alexander, a lawyer with law firm Cox Taylor, which is representing the Island Equipment Operators Association and others in the soil deposit industry, said no one is objecting to regulations in the industry in the CVRD, but it must be done right.

He said the additional costs of the revised bylaw is “very substantial” for many operators in the district.

“The board is not considering this, and the fact that one local operator estimates that this will cost him an additional $100,000 per year,” Alexander said.

“My clients probably could have done more to be involved with the public engagement process, but many did consult with staff. The new regime should not be started with an adversarial relationship, but one in which we can all work together collaboratively.”

Morrison acknowledged that there will be extra costs for the industry, but the bylaw is similar to the one used in the CRD.

“Fiscal and financial adjustments will have to be made, but there is an overwhelming need for this bylaw,” he said.

“The board came together on this issue because it was a matter of public good.”



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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