BLENKINSOP VALLEY COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION
PO Box 30063, 3989 Quadra St., Victoria BC, V8X 5E1
250-477-8539

 

September 2010 Newsletter

Dear BVCA members

The BVCA directors met on September 15, 2010. We hope you find the following items of interest:

1. Propane Cannons

At our previous meeting, The BVCA directors met with a representative of the Broadmead Area Residents’ Association (BARA) who encouraged the BVCA to alter its position regarding the use of propane cannons in the Blenkinsop Valley. Before considering this request, the BVCA directors decided to meet again with the owners of the Beckwith Farm to better understand the reasons for which they are using the cannons and the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of other types of deterrents.

The BVCA position has been to support farming and acceptable farming practices as described in provincial guidelines.

Two of the Beckwith Farm owners attended our meeting on September 15. The following topics were included in our discussion:

Why were blueberries chosen as a crop?

When asked why they chose blueberries as a crop the owners responded by listing other options they had considered first such as a U-Farm (neighbours disapproved), greenhouses (large energy costs, night lights), and a vineyard (soil wasn’t ideal). The soil was tested and found to be suitable for blueberry production. Blueberries were also being sold at a higher price than they are at this time.

New technology

The farm owners are following new research and tools to deal with birds. Laser technology is successfully being used in Europe. This was developed for bird control at airports and large commercial operations (land fills). The type of laser being used apparently does not have health hazards associated with it and workers can be in the fields while it is being used. The cost for a device of this type is approximately $230,000.00 CAN.  Island Berry Company is working with the manufacturer of the laser technology to apply this to agriculture, and more specifically at Beckwith Farm.

New techniques which will be used next year.

The farm has recently purchased two young border collie/ English collie cross dogs which will be trained specifically to deter geese. The dogs are now very young but they should be ready next year.

The owners also expect to use falconers next spring.

Bird behavior and how it determines the use of cannons

The farm owners were not expecting to have problems with geese as geese on the lower mainland do not disturb the blueberry plants. The farm, however, has had a significant number of its plants harmed by geese. It is expected that approximately 30% of the plants will need to be removed next spring because of damage from the geese.

Geese tend to feed in the early morning and at dusk. The geese tend to fly to another part of the farm when one cannon is fired. At times, the geese circle overhead for awhile before landing on the farm again. It is for these reasons that the cannons continue to fire beyond the initial round. The staff can reach the cannons within a few minutes and turn them off once the geese have departed from the area.

The cannons are on a timer but are turned on and off by staff based on the presence of birds. Staff are present before the 6:30 AM cannon firing and turn the timer off if no geese are visible.

The cannons have been effective. The farm has also used hand operated noise makers, kites mimicking birds of prey, distress calls and dogs.

 

Netting

Netting has been found to be cost effective only if the area involved is less than 10-20 acres. The netting has ongoing expenses associated with it. The new overhead irrigation system prevents the use of nets but even if the farm abandoned its irrigation system, the cost of netting would be prohibitive.

 

Farm staff

A farm manager has been hired and he is on site every day. As well, a farm hand lives on the property. Staff members are on the farm seven days a week checking for geese.

2. BVCA Position re propane cannons

Although the BVCA directors are also disturbed by the noise, they feel that it is important to preserve farming in the Blenkinsop Valley. The BVCA directors decided to continue with their present policy which is to support farming and acceptable farming practices as defined by provincial guidelines.

The directors would like to facilitate communication between the various groups involved in this issue by arranging for a meeting with representatives of the surrounding community associations, the Concerned Neighbours of Beckwith Farm, the municipality, the provincial government and the owners of Beckwith Farm.

The municipality is arranging for a meeting with representatives of the BVCA, BARA, Concerned Neighbours of Beckwith Farm (CNBF), Saanich staff and Ministry of Agriculture representatives in order to provide greater understanding of the BC Farm Industry Review Board (BCFIRB) process. It was decided that a BVCA representative should attend this meeting.

The BVCA has received a request that it file a complaint about the use of propane cannons with the BCFIRB. The directors have decided not to do this.

3. Urban Deer control

 The municipality requested our comments about a proposal which will be on the agenda of a forthcoming Union of BC Municipalities AGM to request that the provincial government “provide an adequate level of resources to the Ministry of the Environment and its Conservation Officers so that they can deal with [the] growing challenge” of urban deer.

The municipality also provided us with a copy of a summary report for municipalities taken from a document titled the “British Columbia Urban Ungulate Conflict Analysis”.

Signs of excessive herd size from a biological point of view include habitat quality decline with loss of native plant species, the herd physical condition declines, and the likelihood of winter mortality increases due to poor nutrition or disease.

Signs of excessive herd size from a human point of view include excessive numbers of wildlife vehicle collisions, homeowner and gardener complaints or reports of wildlife aggression.

It was decided to send a letter from the BVCA to the Mayor and Council expressing support for a program to control the deer population in our municipality.

4. Feral Rabbit Control

 We received a request for input on bylaw revisions to control feral rabbits in Saanich from the Saanich Director of Legislative Services. The BC SPCA has requested that the following revisions be considered:

            - Prohibit the feeding of rabbits in parks or public places.
- Prohibit the sale or adoption of rabbits that have not been spayed or neutered.
- Prohibit uncontained feral or pet rabbits from occurring on private property.
- Require property owners to clean up problem breeding sites.

The directors were supportive of these measures and a letter will be sent to the municipality in this regard.

5. Subdivision Application

 An application for a subdivision at 1516 Mt Doug X Rd has been received by Saanich. The Planning Department is developing a package to take before council. One item will be a request to remove this property from the ALR. The property is within the Urban Containment Boundary. Although this property is just outside the area represented by the BVCA, the BVCA has previously sent a letter to the municipality opposing the removal of this property from the ALR. The directors decided to send an update of the previous letter to Saanich council.

 

With thanks,

The BVCA directors

 

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