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General News · 12th September 2017
Mary and Vern Kemp
The Shellfish Noise Restricting “Agreement“ Between Island Sea Farms And The Strathcona Regional District Is Unenforceable.

The shellfish “Agreement“ to restrict the industrial noise in the rural/residential Gorge Harbour states: “The Operator shall ensure that the noise caused by the mechanization and harvesting operations will not exceed 65 decibels at any point in time as measured at the nearest property line.”

"At any point in time" is an unenforceable restriction.

Bob Long, Chief Administrative Officer, of SRD stated in writing in 2005, that “noise bylaws are an ineffective tool for controlling noise issues in the Gorge. and thus will not be pursued by the RD” “Noise bylaws can have unexpected consequences and are largely unenforceable.”

ISF has failed to prove that the noise levels can be reduced consistently. ISF is not voluntarily "respecting the needs of upland residents for a peaceful and quiet environment.” as suggested it should be in the SRD Questionnaire.

The large industrial shellfish operations came to the Gorge in the late 90’s on the premise: "It's Better to Beg for Forgiveness than to Ask for Permission." No zoning permission was sought regarding the extent of machinery or noise. At that time the islanders thought that the zoning bylaws would not permit machinery in the Gorge.
To forgive the industrial noise is too big a concession. The landowners have already conceded their scenic views to acres of shellfish rafts laden, on some tenures, with unattractive smelly shellfish equipment. The noise is pervasive, interrupting thought and relaxation from 9:30am - 5pm most days.They work until 9 pm some nights if there is a machinery breakdown.

In 2012, ISF recognized the need for, and agreed to purchase, if "economically viable”, “a new harvesting vessel that incorporates operational design upgrades to enclose machinery or substantially baffle it” . It was to be “deployed” with in 6 months. The new noise baffling vessel was never deployed and the machinery noise still ricochets around the Harbour. It is intolerable for the other stakeholders on the Gorge, on days of harvesting and other operational days. One new pump has been purchased but the industrial noise continues. There have been higher than allowed decibel meter readings from properties around the harbour, submitted to the RD with no effective noise reduction results.

There are too many variables affecting the industrial noise received at the rural/residential properties, to allow for consistent readings and thus application to the “Agreement” noise restrictions:
(i) weather and the wind, (ii) the state of the equipment repair, (iii) where the machinery is placed on the tenure, (iv) the amount of equipment being used, (v) the amount of surrounding/shielding equipment, and (vi) new or different equipment installed, can all, "at any point in time” alter noise transmission and negate subsequent noise readings from below 65 db to above 65 db or vice versa.

In the “Agreement” #4, it states that the RD will engage in “further mediation” with ISF if there is any non compliance dispute over noise. Also Noba Anderson, our Regional Director’s statement in the Jan/2012 Tideline, promised that further funding would be available, if the mediated “Agreement” failed.
The “Agreement” has failed after 5 years of promises, working-together meetings and discussions.
It is time for the SRD to recognized that the plan by Ralda Hansen, RD Community Service Manager, reported on Feb 2, 2017 is not workable.
She stated “A resolution to the conflict between upland owners and the Shellfish industry over noise from machinery will need to rely on the goodwill and commitment of Gorge Harbour neighbours, Island Sea Farms and other shellfish operators to work together to reach an agreement that works for all parties."
5 years have passed with still untenable noise and minimal voluntary reduction of the industrial noise by ISF.

The Gorge Landowners need support from the Islanders, the Regional District and Island Sea Farms to return the peace and quiet for the Gorge.

“The social pressure through complaints of disruptive noise, the responses to the Aquaculture Questionnaire to enforce the ”Agreement"/Bylaws, muffle the noise, or remove the machinery, have been ineffective. There has been a Stakeholders Committee to meet and attempt to resolve the noise dilemma, but that has not worked either.

The mediated “Agreement” developed by the Regional District and Island Sea Farms (with no Gorge Harbour landowner input) has been ineffective, and demonstrated to be unenforceable for altering the ISF operational noise behaviours.
We are running out of options.

The Cortes Islanders have been very effective in altering the behaviours of Island Timberland.
How can we mobilize this kind of Island energy to alter the behaviour of the Management of Island Sea Farms based on Saltspring Island?

Mary and Vern Kemp
38 year landowner on Gorge Harbour