Maple Ridge council defeats move to relax stream rules

Coun. Al Hogarth’s proposal to go to new rules defeated 6-1

Members of the Alouette River Management Society check out North Alouette River which runs beside gardens and roads in Maple Ridge.

Members of the Alouette River Management Society check out North Alouette River which runs beside gardens and roads in Maple Ridge.

Maple Ridge is sticking with its tougher stream protection regulations after council defeated a proposal to move to developer-friendly setback rules Tuesday.

Coun. Al Hogarth’s proposal to adopt the riparian areas regulation, where environmental consultants determine distances that buildings and roads can be from streams, was voted down 6-1.

Council considered having the yet-to-be-formed environmental advisory committee review regulations, but Coun. Cheryl Ashlie said stream rules were considered when the new environmental management strategy was being formulated.

“We’ve had these conversations and we’ve defined that as where we wanted it to be.”

Moving to riparian areas regulations would have been addressed during that time, she said, but the decision was made not to do that.

She wanted to ensure that it was a simple vote on whether to adopt riparian areas regulations.

“I’m voting against this going forward at any point in its entirety, to a committee for a review. I just want to be clear on that,” she said.

Coun. Bob Masse didn’t support the proposal, but still had questions about streamside protection regulations and wanted to ensure they are serving Maple Ridge.

Maple Ridge currently uses the streamside protection regulations developed by senior and local government scientists and environmental groups. Those rules usually require any developments to be set back between 10 to 30 metres from stream banks.

“It makes sense to have a look at it,” added Coun. Michael Morden, who’s running for mayor in November.

The regulations have been in place for more than a decade, he pointed out.

“I’m supporting looking at it and take it from there.”

Council discussed having the future environmental advisory committee look at the regulations, but the vote was simply to defeat the motion to adopt riparian areas regulation.

“I would really like to know the definition of what fish habitat is,” said Hogarth, a realtor.

He didn’t understand how putting a jogging trail in areas set aside as riparian can be considered fish habitat.

He said the district could face a legal challenge over its designation of such areas, but Ashlie said that would have to be investigated.

Alouette River Management Society president Ken Stewart, a former municipal councillor and MLA, was happy with the decision. Several members of the environmental group were at the meeting.

“Most of us left really pleased, that council decided to do what they did and leave well enough alone,” Stewart said.

He added that it’s a problem of there’s no one to enforce rules and regulations.

“The federal government, in particular, has really cut back in fisheries protection and fisheries research, too.

“We need someone to enforce it. Who is there? The federal government has just backed off.”

Langley township, Surrey, Delta, Burnaby, the District of North Vancouver and West Vancouver follow streamside protection regulations. Pitt Meadows, Vancouver and Coquitlam use riparian area regulations.