Residents sound off on blueberry cannon blasts

Township Council told that proliferation of blueberry fields in the past 10 years has brought a marked increase in cannon use

Propane-fired cannons are among the arsenal of devices farmers can legally use to scare predator birds from their crops.

But even though right-to-farm legislation permits them, there is little in the law that governs the intensity of sound, nor how far it travels.

Kevin Mitchell made those points when he appeared before Township council on June 11.

Mitchell said that the proliferation of blueberry fields in the past 10 years has brought with it a marked increase in the use of propane cannons.

Decibel levels at neighbouring homes can exceed levels that are deemed safe by WorkSafe B.C., he said, adding that there is no mention of “allowable noise level.”

He asked council why the Township’s bylaw enforcement department refers complaints about propane cannons to the B.C. Blueberry Council.

That is one of the issues which the Agricultural Advisory Committee will attempt to answer, after council turned the matter over to them for a report.

Mitchell submitted to council information describing the nature of complaints, including the fact that when people can actually see the cannons, or other sources of farm noise, the number of noise complaints increases.

These include the loudness, pitch or frequency of noise. The information, from the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries, reveals that random noise, or noise that varies in volume or frequency, is more annoying than noise which is predictable or unchanging.

This is the second time council has heard complaints about noise associated with blueberry crops.

In March, south Aldergrove resident Terry Sheldon told council that unless something is done to stop the annoyance of the cannons, and screechers which are used by mink farmers to keep rats at bay, “we are going to have a war (between residents and farmers).

Sheldon offered a solution: falcons.

The mere presence of the raptors can be enough to frighten birds which devour blueberry and other crops, he said.

Sheldon, who recently returned from Cuba where the birds of prey are used to keep smaller birds away from hotels, said that cannons are proving costly not only to the peace of residents, but to businesses. The cannons also be devastating to horses, he said.