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Joni Says No Fishin' Print-ready version

Alberta Report
September 23, 1985

But one stubborn farmer isn't listening

Fish farms are expected to become so popular in B.C. that over 200 of the normally unobtrusive production units should dot the province's coast by 1995. At least half will be along the fjord-riddled Sunshine Coast north of Vancouver. That's a blessing for the area's work force, which suffers a 40% unemployment rate. But a handful of idyllic waterfront landowners near Sechelt (pop. 1,500), 30 miles north of Vancouver, grabbed headlines two weeks ago by enlisting their sometime neighbour, Fort Macleod, Alta.-born singer Joni Mitchell, 42, in a protest against a $2-million salmon farm being started nearby. The artist, whose 1,100-square-foot stone-faced retreat sits on 60 acres facing the Strait of Georgia, grumbled to the Vancouver press from her Los Angeles digs that she thought she'd "purchased a piece of wilderness, but it's being corrupted by industry." And that drew the ire of Clark Hamilton, 38, vice-president of Scantech Resources Limited which is putting the project together. "I doubt she's even been up here this year," he says. "If she had, she'd realize her place is over a mile away, and that she can't even see it. This is a smear campaign."

In fact, only two of the 15 houses along the cove between Miss Mitchell's 12-year-old isolated estate and the farm are in sight of the project. And, says Mr. Hamilton, Scantech owns 10 acres of land facing the venture, "so the farm is in front of our property, not anyone else's." He thinks most of the controversy stems from the project's acceleration. Even though the quarter-acre of water the four fish pens are located in is zoned for mariculture, provincial bureaucratic red tape held the project up so long that the 110,000 chinook and coho salmon earmarked for the farm were nigh blanched in shallow 25-degree C "smolting pens" nearby. So when temporary approval was finally received in late June, Scantech scrambled to move the young fish or "smolts" into their rearing pens. The obligatory advertisement companies must place to invite public discussion of such projects appeared simultaneously with the farm's start-up, rather than weeks in advance as it usually would. "It's been implied that we bamboozled everyone," says Mr. Hamilton, "and that's not true. Our property was properly zoned, and our fish would have died if we didn't act fast." Miss Mitchell sniffs that "since commerce rules all," she doubts landowners have any recourse. Mr. Hamilton applauds her flash of wisdom. "She should check out the facts," he says. "The coast isn't Joni's paradise; it belongs to everybody."

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Added to Library on January 9, 2000. (3002)

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