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Environment Appeals Board to hear from area farmer after wetlands removed

Alberta’s Environmental Appeals Board is set for a hearing later this year after wetlands were found to have been filled on land in Lamont County. 

The Board will hear submissions regarding an Enforcement Order handed to Jim Gerber and JimCo Farming Inc. for conducting “unauthorized activities in wetlands located at SW-53-16-W4M in Lamont County.” 

According to the Enforcement Order dated Jan. 6, 2022, Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) received a complaint in late October of 2021 about multiple wetlands being infilled in a quarter-section of the land. An inspection on Oct. 26 found earthen materials had been placed within the impacted wetlands site. 
 
The inspector also noted piles of the fill material present throughout the land and equipment on-site, including a landscaper, bobcat, service truck, two site trailers, and two bulldozers. The fill material was being deposited into the wetlands with the landscaper. Standing water and wetland plants were also observed surrounding the fill material. 

According to the report, Gerber met with the inspector and explained he was draining sloughs to increase farmable land in the area and did not allow the inspector to inspect the land at that time. 

On Nov. 3, the inspector sent a notice of non-compliance to JimCo Farming Inc., which directed that the activities noted in October must stop.

Two inspectors and a Lamont County peace officer returned on Nov. 5 to conduct an inspection. They again found equipment on-site, fill material within six wetland areas, four drainage ditches leading from wetland areas to a watercourse that crosses the lands, and an alteration of the waterway.  

During this inspection, Gerber explained he had filled in the wetlands, and the watercourse was excavated to improve drainage flow because water would pool and the land couldn’t be farmed. He also explained they had excavated the drainage ditches to move water from the wetlands into the watercourse.  

On Nov. 9, Gerber was advised by AEP Compliance to stop the activity on the lands; however, during the call, Gerber said he believed the work was exempt under Water (Ministerial) Regulation Schedule 3(1)e which provides an exemption from having to obtain a Water Act license for groundwater diversion, and that he would continue the activities. 

A wetland specialist reviewed aerial photographs of the land and wetlands and determined that a Water Act approval had not been issued for the activities. The report concluded that JimCo Farming Inc. was in contravention of the Water Act under Section 142(1) (h) and was ordered to stop immediately and submit a plan to restore the wetlands area to its pre-disturbed state. 

Gerber and JimCo Farming Inc. will have its hearing via videoconference on Nov. 22, 2022

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