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Central Alberta Poultry Project Panned


January 26, 2011
By The Canadian Press

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January 26, 2011, Ponoka, Alberta – Concerned citizens in central Alberta are  fighting a poultry project that's been given the go-ahead near three scenic lakes.

January 26, 2011, Ponoka, Alberta – Concerned citizens in central Alberta are  fighting a poultry project that's been given the go-ahead near three scenic lakes.

They want the Natural Resources Conservation Board to overturn its decision to approve the 95,00 broiler-chicken farm near Ponoka.

Friends of the Chain Lakes fears that the operation will be too close to wetlands that serve as headwater to the lakes.

There are worries that manure from the chicken farm could contaminate the lakes, which are popular with fishers, boaters and swimmers.

The conservation board approved the application even though the operation falls within a watershed protection area established by the county.

A board spokesman says the protection area is suggested and is not an "outright or absolute'' exclusion.

There are already a number of confined feeding operations,  including a pair of dairy farms and a pig farm, within five
kilometres and all must find land to spread their manure, says Bernice Edwards of the Friends group.

Spreading is happening closer to the lakes each year and adding a huge poultry operation only worsens the problem, she suggests. The topography of the area – the lakes are quite low -increases the risk of tainted runoff reaching the water bodies.

The lakes are home to wildlife, fish and fresh water shrimp, and are an important stop for migrating birds.

"If we get into trouble with polluting these lakes, we are in big trouble,'' Edwards said. "That (confined feeding operation) has been approved in an area that was outlawed by our county years ago.''

Ponoka County manager Charlie Cutforth says council is not happy with the decision either and wants a review.

"I am under instructions to write a letter to the (board) advising them … of our dismay with the decision,'' he said.

Cutforth said the municipality does not argue that the conservation board has the authority to make decisions on confined feeding operations, but council is concerned its voice does not seem to have been heard.

"It's certainly frustrating that it doesn't appear that our input isn't necessarily recognized and may not be appreciated.''

Francisco Echegaray, an approval officer for the board, says the poultry application by Henk and Gerrie Krijger of Zealand Farms is consistent with the county's municipal development plan. He says the area is zoned for agricultural activities.

Gerrie Krijger will say little about the opposition to the chicken farm.

"We have a permit and that's it.''

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