The Squamish-Lillooet Regional District board, on the advice of Whistler, is engaging EvEco Consultants to fight its appeal of a B.C. Rail application to spray pesticide along the ballast sections of the railway between Pemberton and DArcy.
The SLRD board approved spending up to $30,000 of taxpayer money to fight the Crown corporation at the provinces Environmental Assessment Appeal Board hearing, set for five days starting Jan. 16.
The regional district hopes the hearing will be wrapped up within three days but suspects B.C. Rail, knowing the limits on funds, will make sure the case is stretched to the full five.
The SLRD only has $10,000 in its current budget to use towards the appeal. The balance will have to come from the districts general select funds which will be replenished through the 2001 budget allocation.
The board will now pursue additional funding for the appeal through the Mount Currie Band, Squamish Nation and the NQuatqua Band.
The board is, however, concerned that whatever the outcome, they will continue to be faced with B.C. Rail pesticide applications.
"There has to be another way to skin this cat," said SLRD director Corinne Lonsdale. "We are taking $30,000 from the provincial government to fight the Crown." And, it was noted that the cash is being spent to prevent potential health problems associated with pesticide use without any backing from the Health Ministry.
"We cannot continue to put tax dollars out to fight a Crown corporation to protect the health of our communities. Thats ridiculous," said board chair Susan Gimse.
The SLRD has already been denied an application to stay the spraying pending the outcome of the appeal.
The board has also engaged EvEco to fight a second B.C. Rail permit, this one to spray pesticide within the railway right-of-way between Pemberton and North Vancouver. The SLRD share of this appeal, assuming cost-sharing with Whistler, will be in the region of $12,000.
Although the generic term used in the permits is pesticide, the chemicals used are herbicides to inhibit vegetation growth. They include glyphosate (Roundup) diuron (Karmex), chlorsulfuron (Telar) and triclopyr (Garlon 4).
Although the Ministry of Environment will be switching to a Pest Management Plan process, Gimse believes that the progress Whistler and the SLRD make in addressing the current permit system will have an effect on the amount of weight local governments will carry under the new system.
The Pest Management Plan process will allow B.C. Rail to submit five-year plans for approval covering a greater area than the permit system allowed. The fear is that once a PMP is approved, there is nothing local governments will be able to do about it.
Ultimately, the SLRD would like to see B.C. Rail switch to alternative pest control methods, such as steam application, to clear the tracks of vegetation. The RMOW would like to see the emphasis placed on cutting the vegetation down to size.
Both alternatives are more expensive, and in B.C. Rails opinion, substantially less effective than spraying.