A level of mystery continues to surround two large outdoor tanks off Wallace Road near Stelly’s Secondary School in Central Saanich.
A spokesperson for Pacific Aquaponics, the company said to be behind the tanks at 7210 Wallace Dr., declined comment when Black Press Media visited the site recently, but promised additional information at a later date, possibly by year’s end.
A document from the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries obtained by a resident details elements of the proposed operation. The 8.6-hectare lot, which lies entirely within the Agricultural Land Reserve, is the subject of plans for development of a “large aquaponics operation” that would include greenhouses 0.8 hectares in size.
ALR rules permit the construction, maintenance and operation of an aquaculture facility on land under regulations “that may not be prohibited by local government,” the document reads.
Many local residents are said to have expressed concern to the ministry with the development, resulting in what the document calls “dozens of calls (or) emails” to District of Central Saanich and the submission of two compliance and enforcement violation report forms to the Agricultural Land Commission.
According to the document, following a July 29 site visit, the commission’s compliance and enforcement staff found the property owner has not contravened the Agricultural Land Commission Act and Regulations.
A District of Central Saanich spokesperson said in a statement the municipality’s role on ALR land relates only to building permits, not land use approval. “The District oversees building permit applications and construction information from the property owner,” it reads.
Since this is agricultural land, the commission dictates permitted farm uses on ALR land. “Farming practices must meet provincial standards,” it reads. “To date, the (municipality) has issued permits for water storage tanks, a grain silo, and a demolition permit for one of the barn structures, and has not received any other permit applications from the owner to review.”
Broadly speaking, aquaponics combines the cultivation of fish and plants in a recirculating environment, according to the background material from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), a specialized agency of the United Nation. The phrase itself combines two words — aquaculture, the growing of fish in a closed environment — and hydroponics, the growing of plants usually in a soil-less environment.
The proposed aquaponics operation also involves a federal dimension because the aquaculture component of the project would require a license.
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