Letter: Riparian areas again

Monday, May 6 2013

(In response to Trustee Gisele Rudischer’s letter in the April 15 Sounder)

Thank you, Gisele, for your reply to my letter. I will concede that you are partially correct. It appears that I will be able to continue growing fruit and vegetables. However, they are not specific exemptions. The only specific exemption is about existing structures. The rule is: Landowners can continue to use their property as they always have even if a streamside protection and enhancement area is designated on it. Disturbing natural vegetation like brush is still not allowed. I dug a small ditch which runs into the main ditch. This carries water from the perimeter drains of my shop and house, some of the roof drainage and drainage from my driveway and parking areas. If I don’t keep this ditch clear, flooding will occur. There is an implication in the rule that disturbs me. That is, if I sell my property, the new landowner will have had no previous use of the property. To me, this implies that he no longer has the same use of that property in the SPEA that I had. The rules do say that existing permanent structures, which includes buildings, roads, parking areas and landscaping are ‘grand-fathered’ but doesn’t state what that means. It also says that landscaping may only be temporary if it could be modified to provide more natural conditions. Modified at the whim of the landowner or the QEP? The landowner not only has to pay for the assessment, he could be facing a loss in land value. There is far too much confusion and contradiction for my mind. If you read the rules, you will see that the ordinary landowner who just wants to live on his land and produce some food has very few specific rights. The rules are written with sub-dividers and developers in mind. It is interesting that the overview and FAQ’s of Riparian Area’s do not include the rule’s mentioned above, you have to study the assessment procedures to find it. It should also be noted that the assessment that was done for the Islands Trust is only a partial assessment, the test for fish presence or absence has not been done. To me a riparian area is an area which supports fish habitat, if there are no fish or the watershed is shown not to support fish, what happens? Shouldn’t this be determined first?

In the case of my property, the main ditch runs through the middle of my property. If this is declared a riparian area, the two usable portions of my property are segregated. This Riparian Area could be 2 meters either side of the ditch or 30 meters either side of the ditch. Thirty meters would be a significant chunk of property.

No information package on Riparian Areas was supplied to me, all the information that I got initially was from the local papers. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against the protection of Riparian Area’s where justified. I would love to see a babbling brook coursing over sparkling gravel beds, deep pools with trout and kids fishing but I just don’t see it here. 

I still think this whole idea is a dream that disadvantages the affected landowners. This not unlike ferry fares, the Riparian Area is for the public good but I pay the fare and you ride free, is this fair? Doesn’t anyone else care what will happen to their property? 

This riparian initiative must be stopped.

~ John King