Slow start to new commercial well licensing in Vanderhoof

Over 20 local ranchers filled a classroom in Vanderhoof on Jan. 20 to apply for a commercial well licence for the first time.

Liz Legebokoff is one of the Nechako Valley Regional Cattlemen’s Association members who attended the groundwater licensing workshop at CNC’s Vanderhoof campus on Jan. 20.

Over 20 local ranchers filled a College of New Caledonia classroom in Vanderhoof on Jan. 20 to apply for a commercial well licence for the first time.

Hosted by the Nechako Valley Regional Cattlemen’s Association, the workshop was facilitated by six representatives from the Ministries of Environment, Agriculture, as well as Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.

Non-domestic groundwater well licenses became a requirement on Feb. 29, 2016, when the Water Sustainability Act came into effect and included new regulations on groundwater quality and quantity protection. Deadline for waived application fees was extended from March 1 to Dec. 31 to encourage more users to apply early.

In Vanderhoof, the attendees made up only about 10 per cent of the nearly 200-strong regional cattlemen membership, and the association is looking to organize another session in the future to encourage more applicants, said Lyla Brophy, secretary of the regional association.

For some, the challenge lies in proving what date the wells were built; some ranchers allegedly had their well since the early 20th century, but records were no longer available due to house fires or missing drillers.

Others may have a date stamped into the well’s surrounding concrete, or neighbours provide affidavits on when the wells were first used.

Well establishing dates could come into play in times of water shortage, when owners of earlier drilled wells get priority to water. During property sales, rights to water would be sold along with the land. If the well isn’t registered by then, the selling date could be the new well-establishing date.

Alex Kulchar, president of the Fort Fraser Livestock Association, submitted his application for the groundwater license at the workshop, and he felt that the extra fees for water usage are negligible, especially for cattle raised for beef production.

“It’s a bit of an annoyance, but it’s done,” Kulchar said. “A little more paperwork required to raise cattle.

“It’s not going to break you; one more straw to hold in the cattle’s kennel. We feel we’re being well regulated with this water licensing.”