A company owned by the Aquilini family was ordered Thursday to pay $55,000 after pleading guilty to a provincial Water Act charge of unlawful diversion of water from the North Alouette River.
According to Kim Grout, the operations and development manager with the City of Pitt Meadows, if a company doesn’t follow the appropriate procedures, they are probably going to be charged and fined.
“This clearly demonstrates that companies need to wait for appropriate approvals,” said Grout.
“The unfortunate thing about this case was that they were close to a decision,” she added.
Port Coquitlam Provincial Court Judge Deirdre Pothecary said she considered imposing an even greater penalty due to a history of violations involving companies under the Aquilinis’ Golden Eagle Group.
“The group is not a stranger to regulatory offences,” she said, noting the company has been “casual from time to time” about obeying laws related to some 2,000 hectares of farmland in the Pitt Meadows area.
But Pothecary noted that since the 2009 offence the company has given one of its senior staff, John Negrin, responsibility for overseeing regulatory affairs in hopes of avoiding further problems. She accepted a joint agreement of the Crown and defence counsel that the numbered company, 374917 BC Ltd., should pay a $1,000 fine plus $54,000 to the province’s Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, which invests in projects that maintain the health and biological diversity of B.C.’s fish, wildlife, and habitats.
“It’s a creative sentence,” said Geoff Clayton, spokesperson for the Alouette River Management Society.
According to Clayton, ARMS will now apply for access to the money to compensate for the impact the damage did to the North Alouette River.
The case originally involved violations under the Water Act, the Fisheries Act, and the Dike Maintenance Act that were made in relation to the diversion of water at their Golden Eagle cranberry plantation in Pitt Meadows.
Environmentalists complained that the installation of a pipe and pump that diverted water from a side channel of the North Alouette River in the summer of 2009 resulted in the death of thousands of fish.
– Larry Pynn is a reporter with The Vancouver Sun