Maple Ridge News

River group wanted Aquilini fine for local use

The charges stem from June 2009, when a water intake pipe was installed into the river and water pumped to keep a field of cranberry plants alive.  - The NEWS/files
The charges stem from June 2009, when a water intake pipe was installed into the river and water pumped to keep a field of cranberry plants alive.
— image credit: The NEWS/files

Instead of ordering an Aquilini numbered company last week to pay $54,000 to the Habitat Trust Conservation Foundation for illegally taking water from the North Alouette River, the money should be put to local use, says a local river group.

The Port Coquitlam provincial court decision shows a Vancouver orientation and no recognition of Maple Ridge, says Geoff Clayton, with the Alouette River Management Society.

"We didn't spring up overnight." It's just the ignorance of the Vancouver audience that doesn't know that the society exists.

But ARMS had to spend its own money to hire an environmental lawyer to make a presentation on the case, he pointed out.

ARMS "helped fund enthusiasm for the two senior governments to pursue this," he said.

Clayton was responding to the decision by the Crown prosecutor to ask for an order of the payment following the guilty plea to a illegally pumping water in June 2009 under the Water Act.

Court heard last week that the large pipe was put into the North Alouette River in order to water a field of cranberry bushes that were at risk of dying of drought.

Clayton would like the money spent on creating a water-use plan for the North Alouette area.

The company was ordered to pay the money, plus a $1,000 fine after pleading guilty to illegally pumping water, under the Water Act.

A total of 11 charges were laid in 2011 after a water intake pipe was installed into the North Alouette River in June 2009 to provide water to cranberry plants during a hot, dry spring.

But all but the one of charges was dropped  against the numbered companies, CPI - Cranberry Plantation, Global Coin Corp., farm manager Richard Matis as well as Elisa, Francesco, Paulo and Roberto Aquilini.

Clayton said he wasn't surprised by the $1,000 fine.

But he wondered if any Fisheries Act charges could ever be laid again under a similar circumstance, given the changes to the Fisheries Act which removes habitat protection. The Conservative government approved those changes last year.

"It would be impossible to bring those charges forward, or even contemplate bringing them."

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